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The big picture on the bypolls: the road to 2019 has got tougher for the BJP

The BJP may face a number of difficulties after losing out on three Parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

columns Updated: Mar 19, 2018 11:51 IST
Byelections 2018,Uttar Pradesh,Bihar
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow. The SP and the BSP didn’t take the Congress into confidence while forging a coalition for the Uttar Pradesh bypolls (PTI)

The message from the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by-elections is clear for the party in power: the road to 2019 will be much more difficult to negotiate than 2014. The party’s helmsmen will also have to introspect on this question: Do their chaal and charitra (functioning and character) need to change? Could it be that the morale of party workers and newfound supporters have been dented?

Was this why the voting percentage in both the constituencies in Uttar Pradesh was much less than expected? The voting percentage in Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur constituency was 43% compared to 54.67% in 2014. Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had helped the party win for the first time at Phulpur in 2014. At that time, 50.2 % voters had turned out. The number shrunk to 37.39% this time. The slim margin of defeat in Gorakhpur shows that had the BJP supporters been more enthusiastic, the result could have been reversed.

You may want to join the chorus that emerges after every election result which says that the ministers don’t share a good rapport with each other. That the chief minister is honest but the government machinery and his ministers are not so. No wonder the bureaucrats have become arrogant and the party workers feel ignored. While discussing these factors, remember that in these over-enthusiastic times, baseless allegations and half-truths can pass off as facts.

The election results have proved that Mayawati still possesses the capacity to transfer her vote bank anywhere she wants. Naturally, the Samajwadi Party’s victory with her helps raise this question: Will Akhilesh Yadav provide complete support to the BSP candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections? If Akhilesh manages to help the BSP candidate emerge victorious, it is certain that their mutual trust will be strengthened. So, the Kairana by-election could become the first test for this political partnership.

The BJP may face a number of difficulties after losing out on three Parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. To begin with, the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah team will have to plug organisational loopholes in these two states. The party’s more extreme associates may harden their stance. Along with this, the Centre will have to prepare a strong report card. The Opposition has been alleging that the promises made before the last general elections have not been fulfilled. Such news can spread like wildfire.

The results have also reduced the BJP’s strength in the Lok Sabha. In 2014, the party won 282 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha to form a government on its own. Now this number has reduced to 273. So the BJP’s majority hinges on just one MP. The other partners of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will want to capitalise on this. It will also affect seat distribution, which can have an impact on the results of the 2019 elections. Clearly, the BJP will put all its energy behind winning the assembly polls in Karnataka and the three by-elections to the Lok Sabha. There are signs that indicate this. After the loss in Uttar Pradesh, all senior leaders, including Yogi Adityanath, conceded with humility that they had become victims of overconfidence. If the BJP leaders take a lesson from this, there is scope for course correction because the BJP still boasts the best election machinery among political parties.

It is important because even as the BJP has conquered many new states in the past few years, its popularity has diminished in the states in which it has been ruling. In Gujarat, despite a 22-year-old reign, it had to sweat to win the last assembly elections. Subsequently, the saffron party had to face defeat in the by-polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. By winning the recent municipal polls in 21 districts of Rajasthan, the Congress has ushered in winds of change.

The UP by-election results have also created a few challenges for the Congress. The SP and the BSP didn’t take it into confidence while forging a coalition. The party fielded candidates to defend its ego but the candidates couldn’t breach the 20,000 mark. Regional parties, who were their partners at one point, may ask the Congress to support them. Clearly, these by-election results are a sign of the rise of those parties who practise regional politics.

The change in circumstances has made the three Lok Sabha by-elections and the assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan even more interesting. Let us see whom the electorate anoints as the hero.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 11:50 IST