Undeterred by setbacks in the recent byelections in some states, the BJP is confident of retaining the Bhandara-Gondia and Palghar Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, where the bypolls are due. However, the Congress feels the recent bypoll results were an indication of the “changing political scenario”. The byelection in Bhandara-Gondia is due as its sitting BJP MP, Nana Patole, resigned from the seat late last year and joined the Congress.
The bypoll in Palghar is necessitated due to the death of its sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanga in January this year. Also, following the death of senior Congress leader Patangrao Kadam, there is a vacancy in his Palus-Kadegaon Assembly seat in Sangli district. The dates of these bypolls are yet to be announced. Notably, in a setback to the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party recently lost the bypolls to all three Lok Sabha seats it contested, including its bastion Gorakhpur, and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, besides Araria in Bihar.
Last month, the Congress thumped the ruling BJP in Rajasthan, clinching the two Lok Sabha and one state Assembly seats in the bypolls. It also retained two Assembly seats in by-elections in MP, though with reduced victory margins. “Issues in different states may be different, but the results indicate that people were unanimous in their judgement that the BJP is anti-poor and failed to fulfil its promise of tackling unemployment and assurances made to the poor and farmers,” Maharashtra Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said.
“There is widespread anger against the BJP, and results of the by-elections in Maharashtra, whenever they are held, will not be any different,” he told PTI. However, state BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said the reasons for defeat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were different. In MP, the Assembly seats were retained by the Congress though with reduced winning margins, Bhandari said.
In Rajasthan, the Congress wrested two Lok Sabha seats from the BJP, while in Uttar Pradesh, the party suffered a jolt, he admitted. “The UP chief minister (Yogi Adityanath) noted that the loss was due to over-confidence and complacency,” he said. Referring to Maharashtra, he said that in Bhandara-Gondia, the BJP has maximum numbers in zilla parishads and panchayat samitis.
There is anti-incumbency against Patole, who had won on the BJP ticket in 2014 but later quit and joined the Congress, Bhandari said. Similarly, in Palghar, late Chintaman Wanga’s popularity and goodwill will stand the BJP in good stead at the hustings, he claimed. Wanga was a long-time MP, he said, adding that the party’s organisational base in Palghar is strong.
“We also won the Palghar zilla parishad and the panchayat samitis’ elections,” he pointed out. The BJP leader also said that the lack of clarity on an alliance between the Congress and the NCP was another positive for his party. However, Sawant said the Congress will take along all “like-minded” parties and discussions were on in this direction.
“The deliberations will be expedited once the by-elections in Maharashtra are announced,” he said. NCP spokesman Nawab Malik claimed there was tremendous unrest in rural Maharashtra over the sloppy implementation of the loan waiver scheme, and due to the violence in Pune’s Bhima-Koregaon area.
“This unrest will be reflected in the by-elections, when they are held,” he said. Malik alleged that the BJP may try to delay the announcement of dates of the bypolls in Maharashtra. “In UP, the by elections should have been held in six months (after the seats were vacated). But, they were held after a year,” he said.
To a question on lack of clarity on the tie-up between the Congress and the NCP for by-elections in Maharashtra, Malik pointed out that the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party also stitched up the alliance at the last moment, just before the bypolls in UP.