By-election results in Phulpur and Yogi Adityanath's stronghold Gorakhpur have proven BJP is not invincible, even in its own backyard, when confronted with combined the force of opposition.
By-election results in Phulpur and Yogi Adityanath’s stronghold Gorakhpur have proven BJP is not invincible, even in its own backyard, when confronted with the combined force of opposition. A small glimpse of this was also visible in last year’s Gujarat Assembly elections where Congress gave a scare to the saffron party by joining hands with three of the most dynamic and influential local leaders – Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakor.
While Alpesh had formally joined the Congress, party president Rahul Gandhi failed to realise the full potential of Patel and Mewani. They avoided participating in joint rallies or even addressing press conferences together. Patel recently acknowledged that not meeting Rahul Gandhi helped BJP return to power.
For Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had announced a surprise, last-minute but determined tie-up to take away both seats from the BJP. The results show their attempt has not only worked but also become a test case that can be replicated across the country in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, starting from Uttar Pradesh.
Interestingly, the SP-BSP pact in Gorakhpur and Phulpur has proven former BJP leader Arun Shourie right.
On a number of occasions, Shourie has said the BJP can be defeated if all opposition parties come together and put up a single candidate against the BJP in each constituency that will go to polls in 2019.
Speaking during a book launch event in Delhi in January this year, Shourie had pointed out that only 31 per cent people had voted for the BJP in 2014. There were 69 per cent anti-BJP voters who can easily defeat the BJP if Opposition put up joint candidates.
“If you really believe the country is in peril because of the way things are happening… then you must get together. The first point should be that there will only be one candidate against a BJP candidate in each constituency… against people who we all believe are taking the country into a very dangerous zone,” Shourie had said.
With the exception of Congress, almost all prominent opposition parties had backed Samajwadi Party candidates in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Rahul Gandhi-led party failed to save deposits in both seats. The Congress would need to play a side role and back dominant players in states where it is no longer a force to be reckoned with.
The Grand Old Party is no longer a major political force in most of the states of the country. Right now, Congress is ruling in only two big states – Karnataka and Punjab. In Karnataka, the party has to fight out with the BJP to retain power in the upcoming Assembly elections.
BJP has been vulnerable to joint opposition force. This was proven in Bihar Assembly elections 2015 when RJD, JD(U) and Congress formed a grand alliance, which easily crushed Modi wave. The grand alliance didn’t last long but it did give a template which the opposition can try to defeat the saffron party. The bypolls in Uttar Pradesh has once again brought BJP’s vulnerability to joint opposition forces to the fore.
However, the opposition parties, especially Congress, would have to do a lot of brainstorming and make big compromises if they are serious about dethroning Narendra Modi in 2019. The Congress may find the first challenge from parties that are very dominant in their respective states, like Mamata Banerjee’s TMC.