Bypolls: SP, RJD inflict shock defeat on BJP

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on March 15, 2018 Published on March 14, 2018

Thanking Maya Samajwadi Party supporters celebrate in Lucknow   -  Rajeev Bhatt

BJP tally in Lok Sabha drops to 272; Cong loses deposit in both UP seats

The volatile Hindi heartland has delivered its first shocker to the ruling BJP, with the party losing in fiercely fought by-polls for three seats. Two of the seats — Gorakhpur and Phulpur — are in Uttar Pradesh, and were earlier held by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. Both were won by the Samajwadi Party. The third — Araria — is in Bihar, and was won by the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In Phulpur, the SP’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP’s Kaushalendra Singh Patel by a margin of 59,613 votes. In Gorakhpur, the SP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad beat the BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla by 21,881 votes.

The BJP lost the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat after over 25 years, at a time when the Mahant of the powerful Gorakhnath peeth, Yogi Adityanath, is the Chief Minister. Adityanath spearheaded the BJP campaign with as many as 16 public rallies in his pocket borough.

In Bihar, the jailed Lalu Prasad’s RJD held onto the Araria Lok Sabha seat, with Sarfaraz Alam defeating the BJP’s Pradip Kumar Singh by over 61,000 votes. The party also won one (Jehanabad) of the two Assembly seats where by-polls were held earlier this month. The BJP won the other (Bhabua) seat.

Losing numbers

With these results, the BJP’s tally in the Lok Sabha is set to come down to 272 seats. The ruling party is still comfortable in the Lower House because the majority mark has fallen to 269 owing to vacancies created by the demise of Hukum Singh of the BJP, who represented the Kairana (UP), and Chintaman Vanaga of the BJP, from Palghar (Maharashtra).

Another vacancy has been created by the resignation of Nana Patole, elected on the BJP ticket in 2014 from Bhardara Gondia in Maharashtra. Patole has switched over to the Congress. By-polls are yet to be held in these constituencies.

The Congress, by no means a numerical threat even if it has added four seats since 2014, dubbed the by-poll results as a sign of things to come in the last year of the BJP-ruled NDA’s tenure. “…It is clear from the results that voters have a lot of anger towards the BJP and will vote for any non-BJP candidate who has more chances of winning,” tweeted Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the by-polls marked the “beginning of the end” for the BJP.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party supported the SP in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. For the Congress, these bypolls were a no-show. It lost its deposit in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur, where it decided to go it alone.

1990s rerun?

By way of opposition, it is still the regional satraps — the SP-BSP in UP and the RJD in Bihar – who showed their mettle to take on the BJP in these bypolls. It was a throwback to the classic Mandal-versus-Kamandal politics of the 1990s, where an alliance between the SP and the BSP in 1993 had edged the BJP out even in the aftermath of communal polarisation and the demolition of the Babri mosque.

On the lines of Mile Mulayam-Kanshi Ram, hawa me ud gaye Jai Shri Ram (Jai Shri Ram has bowed out to the alliance of Mulayam and Kanshi Ram), the new slogan is Behenji-Akhilesh mile, Modi-Yogi ke hosh ude (Modi and Yogi are terrified by the alliance of Behenji and Akhilesh).

Adityanath acknowledged that he had “failed to understand” the power of a Dalit-Yadav alliance in UP. “We failed to understand it and, over-confidence was one of the reasons for it,” he conceded.

In Bihar, the results indicate that Lalu Prasad seems to have captured the opposition space, while the BJP has emerged as the ruling party, with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar fading out in the contest.


Published on March 14, 2018
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