BJP sees humiliating defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls: 10 takeaways

The message for the Opposition is is clear - get united to stop the saffron tsunami, or remain divided and get drowned.

 |  6-minute read |   14-03-2018
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The by-election results for two Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh - Gorakhpur and Phulpur - have proved to be a major setback for the BJP in general, and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath in particular.

The by-elections were necessitated after chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated their seats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, respectively, on taking office. The key contenders for Gorakhpur were Upendra Shukla (BJP), Praveen Nishad (SP) and Sureetha Kareem (Congress). Nishad won the coveted seat by 21,881 votes.

For Phulpur, candidates in the fray included Kaushalendra Singh Patel (BJP), Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel (SP) and Manish Mishra from Congress. Patel won the seat by 59,613 votes. The BSP and the SP set aside their rivalry to join forces for the by-elections. 

Here's what the drubbing means for the BJP.

1) Going by how the BJP has been projecting Yogi Adityanath as its star campaigner in poll-bound states, it seems the party has been trying hard to strengthen the "Yogi model". While the saffron party was banking on him to help win elections in other states, Adityanath couldn’t even retain his home turf. Defeat in Gorakhpur has dented his vote-gathering capabilities to a great extent.

2) Since 1989, the BJP had not lost the Gorkhapur Lok Sabha seat. Although the party's electoral fortune has seen several ups and down, Gorkhapur, until today, remained a saffron citadel. The BJP lost its stronghold despite the party's popularity at its peak and the chief priest of the "Nath Panth" temple in Gorakhpur occupying the CM's seat. The fact that the voters chose to go with the Samajwadi Party, will force the BJP and its chief minister to do some serious introspection.

3) Winning Gorakhpur was a matter of prestige for the BJP as it has been a bastion of chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who has won from that seat for five consecutive times. Yogi Adityanath had secured over 50 per cent vote share in the last three elections, and has campaigned aggressively in this by-poll. He addressed as many as 16 public meetings - something, local party leaders claim, he never did even when he himself was contesting earlier.

Over a dozen state ministers, two Union ministers and several party MPs and MLAs were deployed by the BJP for canvassing in the two constituencies. And yet it lost the two seats.

4) It was after 23 years that archrivals Samawadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party reached an electoral understanding, which seems to have got the people’s approval. Although Yogi Adityanath has called it sheer opportunism, it cannot be ruled out that the new combine may led to major changes in UP's political scenario and may also prove to be a game-changer ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

5) In the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP managed to win 71 of 80 seats on its own in UP (ally Apna Dal also won the two seats where it was contesting, increasing the saffron party's tally to 73) with around 43 per cent vote share. This was dubbed as a tsunami because the Opposition was fragmented. Had the BSP (with a 19.77 per cent vote share), SP (with 22.35 per cent) and the Congress (with 7.53 per cent) fought the elections together, their vote share would have been 49.65 per cent. This shows that a united Opposition could have stopped the Modi’s juggernaut even in the 2014 in Uttar Pradesh.

The message for the Opposition is is clear. Get united to stop the saffron tsunami, or remain divided and get drowned.

6) A dedicated vote bank of Dalits ensures that Mayawati is capable of transferring votes seamlessly to its alliance partner. It doesn’t matter who she is supporting. And, in this election again she has shown how her supporters have voted for the Samajwadi Party, which was her bitter rival until a few days ago.

7) The Congress party fielded Sureetha Kareem from Gorakhpur, and Manish Mishra for Phulpur, but failed miserably. The party must examine if it wants to follow a go-it-alone policy or go for a grand alliance on the lines of 2015 Bihar's mahagathbandhan. There are two choices for the Congress - either expand its own base, or stop Modi.

8) Today's election results have also raised serious questions on the Modi and Yogi model of governance. The fact that the BJP CM and his deputy couldn't manage to retain their home turfs despite being in power in the state as well as at the Centre, calls for some serious introspection. While BJP president Amit Shah claims that “achhe din” promised by the party has arrived, it seems the people in these constituencies think otherwise.

9) There were speculations of a BJP hand behind former Phulpur MP Atiq Ahmed, who is currently lodged in jail, joining the poll fray. The BJP reportedly tried to divide the minority votes by fielding him as an independent candidate. It seems the voters have seen though the conspiracy and the electoral ploy failed to work for the BJP. 

10) The BJP needs to do a serious rethink if it wants to fight back in 2019. It needs to focus on governance, go for another social engineering and try to bring in smaller parties within its fold.

Also read: Uttar Pradesh by-polls: Why winning Phulpur is a bigger challenge for both BJP and Opposition

Writer

Ashok Upadhyay Ashok Upadhyay @ashoupadhyay

Editor, India Today Television.

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