The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday suffered a major blow when the newfound unity among opposition parties emerged victorious in 11 out of 14 bypolls, thus restricting the saffron party’s winning chariot and paving the way for talks to forge an alliance of the opposition parties to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together. The opposition parties leaders without wasting any time said that the results were a rejection of the BJP’s leadership and Modi government’s poor policies. Putting up a brave front, the BJP maintained that the bypolls are contested on local issues and it will not have any impact on 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
But many in the party, including MPs, admitted that there is an anti-incumbency factor against the government and the BJP leadership, adding that party has failed to communicate with people about the government’s initiative and pro-poor policies. They are of the view that the party leadership needs to introspect and chalk out a concrete strategy to counter the united opposition ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Also, the drubbing in the Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll and Noorpur Assembly bypoll is seen as an embarrassment for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who led the campaign from the front. This is for the second time in the last six months that the party has faced humiliation in bypolls under Adityanath’s leadership. Earlier, opposition parties – Samajwadi Party and BSP — had in an unprecedented move, joined hands to upset the BJP in the Lok Sabha bypolls held in CM’s stronghold of Gorakhpur and Phulpur .
Kairana and Noorpur a reminder for BJP
The defeat in Kairana, considered a battle of prestige for the BJP, comes as a second reminder to the BJP that the unity among rivals-turned-friends poses a bigger threat to the BJP. The seat was won by the BJP in 2014 with more than 50% votes being polled in favour of deceased local leader Hukum Singh. But this time, the bonhomie among the opposition dealt a major blow to the BJP. Tabassum Hassan who was contesting on the RLD ticket won by a margin of 45,000 votes. “This is a vote for Opposition unity,” Rashtriya Lok Dal leader and former Lok Sabha member Jayant Chaudhary told The Indian Express after the results were declared.
The RLD has a strong presence in over 10 Lok Sabha seats in western Uttar Pradesh (Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura, Aligarh, Hathras, Baghpat, Kairana, Bijnore, Ghaziabad, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar). In 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls, the Jat community, considered a vote bank of the RLD, had voted in favour of the BJP. But yesterday’s outcome affirms that the Jats and Muslims once again have shown faith in the RLD. The Kairana Lok Sabha seat has nearly 5.5 Muslim and 1.5 lakh Jat voters. Leaders of both the BJP and RLD have admitted that the Jats voted in a large number for Tabassum Hassan who got 4.8 lakh votes against her nearest BJP rival Mriganka Singh’s 4.36 lakh.
“It definitely indicates healing of the social strain. People (Jats and Muslims) have voted together. The proof lies in the pudding of victory,” Chaudhary said. The Indian Express reported that a survey conducted during the previous assembly elections suggested that the ‘united opposition’ will win a majority of seats in this region.
The defeat in Kairana and Noorpur also show unrest and anger among farmers against the BJP governments both in Delhi and Lucknow. Promises of farm loan waivers and clearance of dues of the sugarcane farmers have not been fulfilled. Also, the rising incidents of atrocities against the Dalits are a factor that has hit the BJP at the core.
BJP banks on PM Modi’s popularity for 2019 polls
BJP MPs said that the ‘unethical’ and ‘unholy’ alliance of the opposition parties be blamed for the BJP’s drubbing. Party MP from Nagina, Yashwant Singh, said that party’s strategy could have been better. “The BJP, I must say, underestimated the opposition”.
Bijnor MP Bharatendra Singh admitted that opposition’s unity is “surely worrying the party” because it affects the poll arithmetic. He said that the BJP will have to “view this properly and take corrective step”. Bharatendra is of the view that the governments have been taking right measures for the poor but party as an organisation has failed to establish communication with the votes. “The problem is the organisation and those who are handling it at the state level,” he said, adding that those who were given the charge of the campaign including the star campaigners have failed. Another party leader said that rising oil prices have added fuel to the anger and disappointment of people. Aurangabad (Bihar) MP said that this is a wake-up call for the party.
R Balashankar, national convenor of the party’s intellectual cell said that in the bypolls, it is the arithmetic that works. “But in the Lok Sabha, the chemistry decides the winner”. Balashankar said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity will have its impact in the general elections. “His chemistry will work for the BJP.”
The BJP was sure of winning the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat, but NCP that had entered into an alliance with the Congress, won from here by a margin of 48,097 votes. While NCP’s Madhukar Kukde polled 4,44,213 votes, BJP’s Hemant Patle secured 3,94,116 cotes.
In Palghar, the BJP beat the Shiv Sena candidate by a margin of over 28,000 votes. BJP’s Rajendra Gavit got 2,72,780 votes against 2,43,206 votes of Sena’s Shrinivas Wanaga. The Congress nominee in Palghar was ranked fifth with just 47,713 votes. While CM Devendra Fadnavis expressed gratitude to the people of Palghar, Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray refused to acknowledge the BJP’s win saying “people have voted against the BJP”.
BJP ally JD(U) loses Jokihat
In Bihar, BJP’s ally Janata Dal (United) lost the Jokihat assembly seat to rival RJD by a huge margin of 41,225 votes. RJD candidate Shahnawaz Alam defeated JD(U) nominee Murshid Alam from here. The RJD has been the favourite of the Muslims and Yadavs who are seen as the vote bank of Lalu Prasad Yadav-led party. The constituency has 70% Muslims and 15,000 Yadavs. The constituency is a part of the Araria Lok Sabha seat where bypolls were held earlier this year and RJD won.
In Kerala, where the CPI(M) led LDF won, the vote share of the BJP was dropped from 42,682 votes to 35,270. In Maheshtala assembly seat of West Bengal, the party lost to the Trinamool Congress. However, its vote share increased to 42,053 from 14.909.
Bypolls results a message to Opposition: Mamata Banerjee
Within minutes of the bypoll results being out, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the verdict is a message to the regional parties ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. She noted that the BJP has lost in nine out of 10 assembly by-elections. “The calculation is very clear. The regional forces that are strong in a particular state have emerged victorious. I think they should be united. It is a formula. It is the requirement of the hour.” She added that the result is a lesson for the regional parties and a strong political party that has the political will in different states to join hands. “It shows that the formula is successful…If the Congress joins hands with the NCP in Maharashtra, it would be good for both. Even the Shiv Sena is very strong in the urban regions there. Similarly in Karnataka, if (JD-S chief HD) Deve Gowda joins hands with the Congress, it would be beneficial.”
‘United opposition’ in MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh?
While the parties are now preparing for the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Congress is looking for a seat-sharing agreement with ‘like-minded parties’ to upset the BJP. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh told The Indian Express that a united opposition can defeat the BJP. “Everyone must understand this.” Jyotiraditya Scindia, party’s campaign committee chief in Madhya Pradesh, said that it is too early to talk about an agreement with the BSP but said that ‘like-minded parties must come together’.