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Bypolls message for BJP: Don’t give up on the development agenda

While many local issues of the respective constituencies may have influenced the electoral outcome, it is true that at least in UP the party did make a mistake by jumping off the development platform.

comment Updated: Sep 17, 2014 08:57 IST

It is just four months ago that the BJP won the parliamentary elections in extraordinary style, riding high on the promise of development and a huge groundswell of support for its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

In fact, it would not be wrong to say that after the mega win and the Congress’ comatose condition, the saffron party had started to look almost invincible. But then looking at the bypoll scorecard on Tuesday, who could say that now?

The saffron party has suffered big reverses in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, where it did extremely well in the May general elections and is keen to come to power in the next round of assembly elections in 2017; it has ceded considerable ground in two other prestige fights: Rajasthan, which it had won back from the Congress in the 2013 assembly polls, and Gujarat, which has been a party fortress for years.

The only silver lining, indeed a bold one, was in West Bengal, where it won the South Basirhat seat, marking the opening of the party’s account in the state’s 294-member assembly, which is dominated by the Trinamool Congress.

Many would attribute this win to its aggressive statewide campaign focusing on the multi-crore Saradha chit-fund scam, which has singed the Trinamool Congress badly.

However, Tuesday’s results are not the first post-May 16 jolt that the BJP has got: In July, the Congress bagged all three seats on offer in the Uttarakhand bypolls.

In August, the BJP suffered a 4-6 defeat at the hands of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance in Bihar and yielded two strongholds to the Congress in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

The results of the two rounds of bypolls should worry the BJP and its new president, Amit Shah, very much and will test his leadership skills.

While many local factors/issues of the respective constituencies may have influenced the electoral outcome, it is true that at least in UP the party did make a mistake by jumping off the development platform and allowing motormouths like Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj to float crazy ideas like ‘love jihad’ and target the minorities.

The polarisation of votes only helped the Samajwadi Party to recoup a lot of its lost ground. For the SP and the Congress, the results should be a good place to begin a fightback and put their houses back in order.

The results in the two rounds of bypolls would not be restricted to these states only; they could also impact the coming assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra also.

In Maharashtra, where the BJP is in the midst of some tough negotiations with the Shiv Sena over seat-sharing, these results will certainly strengthen the Sena’s bargaining position. For the BJP, the results, as senior leader Rameswar Chourasia correctly said, should be seen as a “blessing in disguise, an eye-opener”.