The BJP, reeling from the Bihar debacle, lost a high-stakes poll battle in Madhya Pradesh but debuted in the Manipur assembly on Tuesday as results were declared for by-elections on about half a dozen Lok Sabha and assembly seats across four states.
The defeat at the Jhabua-Ratlam parliamentary seat is being seen as a major embarrassment for the ruling party and personal loss for chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who toured the constituency for a week and addressed more than 40 rallies while a dozen state ministers camped there for days.
Former union minister Kantilal Bhuria from the Congress buried the BJP’s Nirmala Bhuria under a landslide win, upsetting the saffron party’s calculations pinned on a sympathy wave for its candidate whose father and sitting MP, Dileep Singh Bhuria, died recently.
The victory came as a shot in the arm for the Congress that has been out of power in the state for over a decade but was buoyed by a spectacular win in the Bihar polls this month in alliance with the JD(U) and RJD.
The Lok Sabha seat, which the BJP won for the first time in 2014. includes the Petlawad region where a devastating blast triggered by mining explosives killed over 100 people two months ago.
Analysts said the defeat is likely to bruise the image of three-term CM Chouhan, who is already battling the fallout of the multi-crore Vyapam test-rigging scandal.
Several witnesses and people connected to the scam have died under mysterious circumstances in recent months, triggering charges that powerful politicians with links to the government were pulling the strings.
The BJP, however, retained the Dewas assembly constituency where its candidate Gayatri Raje Puar won by over 30,000 votes after the seat fell vacant on the death of its legislator, Tukojirao Pawar.
The party also made a stunning debut in the Manipur assembly, defeating the ruling Congress on two seats that underscored its growing clout in the northeastern state which will go to the polls in 2017.
In neighbouring Mizoram, former health minister Lal Thanzara of the Congress won the bypoll to the Aizawl North-III assembly constituency with a thumping margin after having to vacate the seat over allegations of conflict of interest.
The party, however, suffered a defeat in Meghalaya as the opposition Hill State Democratic Party (HSPDP) held on to the Nongstoin assembly seat.
Down south, the ruling TRS retained the Warangal (SC) Lok Sabha seat in Telangana as its candidate, Pasunoori Dayakar, won by a massive margin of nearly 460,000 votes, defeating the candidates of the Congress and a BJP-TDP combine.
(With inputs from Bhopal, Hyderabad and Imphal)