The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced losses on Monday in two out of the four states where by-elections were held recently for 18 assembly constituencies.
This was the first major electoral challenge for political forces, especially the BJP, after the formation of the Narendra Modi
government at the Centre following the April-May general elections, in which the saffron party secured a landslide win.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and ruling Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar's decision to join hands and fight together against a resurgent BJP seemed to have a positive impact on the much-talked-about grand alliance in Bihar.
The alliance of the two former chief ministers - of which the Congress too became a part - won six of the 10 seats in the state where the bypolls were held on August 21.
The result came as a morale booster for the two leaders after their parties were hit in the Lok Sabha poll by a tidal wave in favour of the BJP campaign leader (now the Prime Minister), Narendra Modi, who promised to usher in 'achche din (good days)'.
"The alliance will be taken forward (into the Bihar assembly poll next year). The people have rejected the BJP's divisive politics. Our inclusive agenda is on course," said Nitish in Patna.
Lalu had earlier described the alliance as an experiment to "revive the Mandal politics of the 1990s", an allusion to a unity of the other backward classes to take on the "kamandal" (communal) politics of the BJP.
The RJD chief had also given the logic that the votes polled in the recent Lok Sabha election by the RJD (20.1%) and the JD(U) (15.8%) together exceeded the BJP's (29.4%) vote share.
Even though the BJP could win just four seats in the by-election as against the six it won in 2010 in alliance with the JD(U), the outcome left just enough on its table to keep up its hopes for the 2015 state polls.
"We will review, make amends on way to making an all out effort to win the final round," said BJP's Sushil Modi.
Another BJP leader who did not want to be named said, "This is not bad considering NaMo factor was not in play and it was BJP versus united others, unlike the LS poll when RJD and JD(U) were rivals."
While the BJP won in Narkatiaganj, Hajipur, Mohania and Banka, the RJD secured victories in three seats - in Mohiuddinnagar, Rajnagar and Chapra.
The ruling JD(U) won two seats in Parbatta and Jale. The Congress wrested the Bhagalpur seat from the BJP.
By winning two of the three seats, the state Congress led by chief minister Siddaramaiah proved the state government had not lost its popularity.
In the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had, however, won just nine of the 28 parliamentary constituencies.
The ruling party dealt a big blow to the Reddy brothers by wresting the Bellary Rural seat by a comprehensive margin of 33,104 votes.
Congress' NY Gopalakrishna secured 83,906 votes against the 50,802 secured by Obalesh, a confidante of B Sriramulu, who vacated the Bellary Rural seat after being elected as an MP on a BJP ticket from the Bellary parliamentary constituency.
"We were expecting to win but not by this margin," said an elated Siddaramaiah. "The people of Bellary voted for the Reddy brothers in recent years because they were afraid of them."
In Chikkodi (Belgaum district), Congress parliamentarian Prakash Hukkeri's son, Ganesh Hukkeri, won by a margin of 31,820 votes.
BJP strongman BS Yeddyurappa's son, BY Raghavendra, bagged the Shikaripura seat, which his father vacated following his win in the general elections.
But the Congress believes that it scored a moral victory by limiting his winning margin to just 6,517 votes.
BJP workers conceded that the result was a setback given Yeddyurappa has represented this constituency six times and won the recent parliamentary elections by a huge 3.62 lakh votes.
Reacting to the results, an exuberant Siddaramaiah said, "This proves that the so-called Modi wave was temporary. Modi's achche din are over."
In Punjab, the Patiala (Urban) constituency was won by Perneet Kaur, wife of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who had vacated the seat after winning the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had made a stunning debut in the state in the Lok Sabha polls winning four out of 13 seats in Punjab, lost its deposit in Patiala (Urban).
The Talwandi Sabo seat was bagged by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, whose candidate Jeet Mohinder Sidhu had deserted the Congress and quit as an MLA.
Preneet, a three-time MP, was defeated by AAP's Dharamvira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha polls.
In Madhya Pradesh, the ruling BJP won two constituencies (Aagar and Vijayraghavgarh), while the Congress secured a win in the remaining seat (Bahoriband).
In a nail-biting contest in Bahoriband, Congress' Sourabh Singh defeated BJP's Pranav Pandey by 7,977 votes.
(With PTI inputs)
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