Wake-up call: UP takes centre stage as bypoll results leave BJP rattled

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November 16, 2021 10:44 AM

The state is witnessing a blitzkrieg of visits of top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. 

The state is witnessing a blitzkrieg of visits of top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s loss on crucial seats in the recently held byelections appears to have acted as a wake-up call for the ruling party, with senior leaders now making a beeline for poll-bound Uttar Pradesh where elections are due in the next 3-4 months. There is a clear understanding within the BJP that road to Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister travels through UP and a win here could have significant ramifications in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

Desperate to retain power in the politically crucial state, the BJP is looking to pour all its might into the UP Assembly elections. The state is witnessing a blitzkrieg of visits of top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Along with this, several projects are lined up for foundation-laying or inauguration, including Ganga Expressway, Brahmos unit in Lucknow, Jewar Airport in Gautam Buddh Nagar and Film City. Several other projects are also set to be launched like Purvanchal Expressway, Bundelkhand, AIIMS and fertiliser company and AIIMS in Gorakhpur and Kashi Vishwanath Corridor.

While the party has not officially highlighted any specific reason for the party’s top brass focusing on Uttar Pradesh, a conclusion can be drawn from the recent bypoll results, which seem to have rung alarm bells in the BJP top brass.

Bypoll results worry BJP

The saffron party and its allies made a clean sweep in the northeast, winning all nine seats and won the Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandawa. But at the same time, it suffered a major setback at the hands of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

In the final tally, BJP got seven assembly seats while its allies JD(U) won two (Bihar), United Peoples’ Party Liberal – two (Assam), MNF -one (Mizoram) and NPP – two (Meghalaya). NPP’s ally UDP also got one one seat. Congress won eight seats, TMC four, YSRC one and INLD one seat. One Lok Sabha seat each was bagged by the Congress, Shiv Sena and the BJP.

For the BJP, the warning signals came from Himachal Pradesh where the Congress wrested the Mandi Lok Sabha seat and the Assembly seat of Jubbal. It also retained the Arki and Fatehpur Assembly seats. In Rajasthan, the Congress won both seats – Dhariawad and Vallabh Nagar while the BJP’s vote share slid further.

What further rubbed salt on BJP’s wounds was the Trinamool Congress snatching away all four assembly seats in West Bengal. Along with these setbacks, the BJP also lost the Dadra and Nagar Haveli Lok Sabha seat to the Shiv Sena.

Bypoll results ‘conceal more than they reveal’

Giving an insight into the bypoll results, political analyst and commentator Amitabh Tiwari told FinancialExpress.com that the statistical data of the outcome “conceals more than it reveals”.

“In terms of the number of seats, the BJP’s share went up from six to seven, and that of the Congress’ went down from 10 to eight,” Tiwari said.

He also pointed out how the sympathy factor worked for the parties as Congress’ Pratibha Singh, wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh who passed away in July, won in Mandi Lok Sabha seat while Shiv Sena candidate Kalaben Delkar, wife of former independent MP Mohan Delkar whose death necessitated the by-election, bagged the Dadra and Nagar Haveli Lok Sabha seat.

Explaining the rationale behind the rollover of votes for both the parties, Tiwari credited it to an “anti-incumbency factor” building up at the local level. “The anger against the incumbent is quite evident from the data. The BJP lost all its seats, the Congress also lost a similar number of seats.”

He further opined that people have held the “first point of contact” (MLAs and regional parties) responsible for mishandling of the COVID-19 situation, and issues like inflation and unemployment.

“This is the reason why 90-100 MLAs from the BJP are going to be changed. The reason behind it is that local anti-incumbency is rampant because Modi has successfully passed on the blame for COVID mishandling to CMs and local representatives.”

He said it is a usual process for a party to change 25-45 per cent local representatives. “For the BJP, it has understood that local anti-incumbency is rampant and hence the move to negate the issue.”

BJP downplays bypoll results, Congress elated

The BJP, on its part, continues to downplay the bypoll results, saying it would not have any bearing on the UP assembly polls, where it is confident of claiming a big victory.

“There is nothing for the BJP to be worried about as far as the bypoll results are concerned. But yes, we will have to keep a watch keeping the outcome in Himachal in mind, that why the voters got distracted there,” BJP MP from Meerut Rajendra Agrawal told FinancialExpress.com

However, an elated Congress is confident that it will have a considerable impact on the UP polls as well. “I think it will have a very strong impact on the UP results. I think in UP, it will be a story which will be against this government because people have not forgotten the scars of the second wave, they still have the image of the bodies floating down the Ganga, and the long queues of those waiting to be burned. And not only that, there was a huge indictment of the government by the BJP people alone,” Congress spokesperson Anshul Avijit told FinancialExpress.com.

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