By-poll results: 5 lessons Maharashtra has for 2019 general elections
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have shown that a united Opposition can give BJP a run for its money, even in its strongholds.
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At a time when general elections are less than a year away, by-poll results can serve as a quick reminder for parties both in power and the Opposition. The results that came out on Thursday, May 31, proved that at least in north India, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh, parties have found a possible way to take on the might of the BJP, while Maharashtra is still struggling to come up with a concrete plan to halt BJP's victory sway.
The by-elections to the Lok Sabha seats of Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya clearly show that Shiv Sena, which is still undecided over its support for the BJP, can play spoilsport for the Opposition on at least 30 odd seats.
Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to Parliament.
Fighting a bitter battle against the BJP in Palghar, the Shiv Sena secured the second position by eating into the anti-BJP votes relegating Congress to the fifth spot, even below the CP(M).
Congress' shrinking vote bank, which saw support for the party erode among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslims is a matter of concern not just for the grand old party, but also the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). What will this trend mean when the country votes for electing the central government in 2019?
Here's what the by-poll results can tell us:
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have shown that a united Opposition can give BJP a run for its money even in its strongholds.
Similarly, the results of Bhandara-Gondiya also show that despite NCP putting up a weak candidate and BJP's stronghold on the Lok Sabha constituency — BJP won five out of six Assembly seats in Bhandara-Gondiya in the 2014 elections — NCP managed to win the seat as no other party fielded a candidate under a tacit understanding.
While the Congress and NCP were together in the decisions, the Shiv Sena too chose not to spoil the NCP candidate's prospects.
Shiv Sena: Cause of defeat
Palghar was a test case for the Shiv Sena and the party played all its cards right, including the decision to field BJP MP Chintaman Wanga's son, Shrinivas Wanga, from the seat after Chintaman's death. This allowed Shiv Sena to attract Scheduled Tribes’ sympathy votes towards itself as Wanga was an ST leader.
Under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena pushed harder and managed to grab the second spot fighting BJP's powerful election machinery. However, Shiv Sena still fell short of meeting the target by 28,000 seats.
The Shiv Sena will have to rethink its strategy as all votes that split between the Opposition parties in the multi-corner contest in Palghar allowed BJP to win it even if by a narrow margin.
North Indian voters side with BJP
A sizable chunk of north Indian voters in Mumbai, especially in the Thane region, which is a Shiv Sena stronghold, can be major cause of concern for the Opposition parties.
Chief minister Yogi Aditynatha's magic may not be working in UP due to a united Opposition, but it seems to be working in BJP's favour in Maharashtra. Adtityanath was the only star campaigner requested by the Maharashtra unit of BJP for the by-elections as he seems to enjoy a considerable hold in the region. This could give Congress some headache, especially in Mumbai.
Congress losing ground even among scheduled tribes
Palghar was once a Congress seat from where the party would kick off its general election campaigns, however, the party's condition in the constituency is now sad with the party moving to the fifth spot in the contest.
Even if the BJP's position was to weaken in the seat, it may not prove beneficial for the Congress as the losses of the BJP are going to translate into the gains of others parties.
NCP leader Praful Patel clearly hinted that a united Opposition can take on the BJP but added that he wasn't sure of Shiv Sena being part of that united front as the party is still part of the government.
The Palghar results may give Shiv Sena an idea about its next move and force it to think if remaining a part of the government will be in the interest of the party from the point of view of the big battle coming up in 2019.
The party will either have to work out some kind of arithmetic either with the Congress and NCP or work towards ironing out its differences with the BJP to avoid a Palghar like situation in the future.
The Congress and NCP, too, should realise that Shiv Sena contesting alone spoils their prospects especially in Mumbai, Thane, north Maharashtra and Marathwada.
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