By-poll results: Big implications of BJP's humiliating loss in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

The 'Bua-Bhatija' slogans that rent the air in Gorakhpur and Phulpur today may well become the template for 2019 general elections.

 |  5-minute read |   14-03-2018
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It doesn't need rocket science to say that the BJP's 3-0 loss in three Lok Sabha by-polls - Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, and Araria in Bihar - is an alarm bell for the saffron party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the next general elections, due by May 2019.

The BJP’s triple loss takes away the sheen from its emphatic win in the Northeast, particularly Tripura. Its allies formed governments in Nagaland and Meghalaya too, the latter being the 22nd BJP-ruled state even though the saffron party won only two seats in the 60-member Assembly. 

The setback is all the more severe for the BJP as Gorakhpur and Phulpur are no ordinary Lok Sabha constituencies and were represented by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya respectively.

Since the Modi tsunami in 2014, the BJP hasn't witnessed such a poll debacle. It's all the more worrisome for the BJP as it comes from a state where the party's impressive scoreline was 71 out of 80 seats in the 2014 general elections, and 325 of 403 in Assembly polls last year.

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The by-poll results, particularly from Uttar Pradesh, are the best news so far for the Opposition which has been travelling from one electoral defeat to another in the past four years with just three exceptions - Delhi, Bihar and Punjab in chronological order. (Just for the record, the BJP won one - Bhabhua - of the two Assembly by-polls in Bihar. The Jehanabad Assembly seat went to the RJD.)

The UP experiment - Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supporting Samajwadi Party (SP) - has given the “khul ja sim sim" code to the Opposition for entering the Alibaba caves in 2019. After Bihar, the UP by-polls have conclusively proven that the Modi juggernaut can be finally stopped if the Opposition joins hands and replicates Bihar-type grand alliance in key states.

Here's how the by-poll results would impact key stakeholders.

Mayawati

The biggest gainer is Mayawati and her BSP, the party which couldn't even open its account in the 2014 general elections and managed to win just 17 seats in last year's Assembly polls. This is the first time in six years (her cycle of electoral losses began in the 2012 UP Assembly polls) when Mayawati has reasons to smile. She announced her support to the SP candidates at the eleventh hour, first time since 1993 when the two parties were in the same boat. She said it was not a long term policy which would be determined by the outcome of this experiment. Her new-found bonhomie with the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP should also improve prospects for her Rajya Sabha seat.

The “Bua-Bhatija" slogans that rent the air in Gorakhpur and Phulpur today may well become the template for 2019 general elections. Mayawati has reasons to see light at the end of the tunnel and can afford to be more optimistic that her political winter is finally getting over.

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Akhilesh Yadav

Another UP satrap, Akhilesh Yadav, also has reasons to grin from ear to ear. It's not just because he has now taken his Samajwadi Party’s LS tally to seven and reduced BJP’s to 69, but also because the SP's spectacular win would go a long way in boosting the morale of the party cadres. The SP victory is like winning a crucial league cricket match before the knockout stage of the tournament which improves the net run rate and bolsters the team's prospects in upcoming tight contests. Besides, it would inevitably improve bargaining chips for the SP in allocation of seats when SP-BSP-Congress grand alliance is being sewed up ahead of the general elections.

Yogi Adityanath

If Mayawati is the biggest gainer, then Yogi Adityanath is surely the sorest loser. The by-poll losses would dent his image, particularly Gorakhpur, his well nurtured and nourished constituency which he has won for past five consecutive terms. Since he became the UP CM - after some combative posturings with the BJP and intense lobbying with the RSS when the Modi-Amit Shah combine had virtually decided to name union minister Manoj Sinha for the CM's post - he had emerged as the BJP’s new poster boy and poll mascot who was increasingly being used to address election rallies across the country.

Conspiracy theorists may say that PM Modi himself crafted and choreographed the BJP's by-poll defeat to clip Yogi Adityanath’s wings, it's highly unlikely that a shrewd politician like Modi would consciously score a self goal when general elections are inching closer. However, Modi supporters would have a valid argument if they were to point to the fact that Modi didn't campaign in the by-polls.

The grapevine also has it that all is not well between the RSS and the Modi-Shah team. If that were indeed be so as there is no smoke without fire, it means all the more trouble for Yogi, and his problems would compound during the next general elections. After all, he himself had recently dubbed the UP by-polls as “a dress rehearsal” for the next general elections, a remark which he must be ruing now. Well, loose lips sink ships.

In conclusion, it won't be improper to say that Modi's BJP would be really worried if Adityanath’s remark - that these bypolls are “dress rehearsal” before the 2019 general elections - were incidental or prophetic.

The BJP will have to change its election strategy in a big way. The BJP’s defeat in its stronghold and Hindu bastion poses a sensitive question - whether the Hindutva card is probably past its expiry date? It’s an ideal situation for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress to reinvent itself, first in the forthcoming Karnataka elections and then in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh this year-end.

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

Writer

Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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