It was a mixed bag for the Congress in the by-elections for ten seats across eight states.
The party won three seats - two in Karnataka and one in Madhya Pradesh - and came second in Delhi behind the BJP and pushing the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to the third spot.
This was widely interpreted as a sign of the Congress’ resurgence in Delhi where it had failed to open its account in the 2015 assembly elections. The party is now expected to give a tough fight to the BJP in the April 23 municipal elections in the national capital.
The AAP’s back-to-back debacles - first in Punjab and now its failure to retain the Rajouri Garden seat in Delhi - has buoyed the Congress given that Arvind Kejriwal’s outfit was threatening to occupy the political space of the grand old party.
The favourable result in Karnataka is a personal victory for chief minister Siddaramaiah who has been under fire not only from the opposition but within the Congress as well. The win in Gundlupet and Nanjangud has strengthened Siddaramaiah’s grip over the party ahead of the 2018 assembly elections. The Janata Dal (Secular) had not fielded its candidates on any of the two seats as part of an understanding with the Congress, a move that indicates the possibility of the two parties coming together for next year’s polls.
However, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who is facing a CBI probe in a disproportionate assets case and investigations by the enforcement directorate into a money laundering case, could not prove his mettle this time. The defeat in Bhoranj suggests that Singh and his party have a daunting task ahead to stop the BJP juggernaut in the upcoming assembly elections scheduled for December this year.
The Congress could also take solace from the performance of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the BJP-ruled Jharkhand. Backed by the Congress, the JMM is leading against the BJP from Littipara.
While the BJP has won from Bhandavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is leading from Ater. The by-poll loss from Dholpur in Rajasthan is a setback to the efforts of state Congress chief Sachin Pilot who had led the party campaign from the front.
The BJP and the Trinamool Congress maintained their hold in Assam (Dhemaji) and West Bengal (Kanthi Dakshin) respectively.