The BJP was dealt a stunning blow Wednesday when it was defeated in bypolls to three Lok Sabha seats, including fortress Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, in the countdown to 2019. The SP, backed by the BSP which was once a bitter rival, wrested the UP seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur while the RJD retained the Araria seat in Bihar. In two assembly bypolls in Bihar, the RJD retained Jehanabad while the BJP held on to Bhabua.
Hours after he thanked Mayawati for “her and her party’s support in this important battle” and warned the BJP “think what will happen in the general elections” because “people have come together to bring BJP’s bure din (bad days)”, SP president Akhilesh Yadav drove to the BSP chief’s house in Lucknow for a meeting.
The defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, seats vacated last year by Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya after they became Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively, hurt the BJP most.
In first remarks, Yogi Adityanath blamed it on “over-confidence”, the failure to understand the “unlikely alliance” of the SP and BSP and said “it should be a lesson” for the party.
“Ek bemel gathbandhan in logon dwara kiya gaya… usko samajhne mein kahin na kahin kami rahi. Aur atiatmavishwas iska karan hai… Atiatmavishwas mein rehne ke bajaye hum sab logon ke liye yeh dono chunav sabak hai,” he said.
Maurya too acknowledged the sense of loss: “Phulpur pehli baar jeete thay. Gorakhpur lagaatar jeet rahe hain. Jahan chook hui usey dekhenge (We had won Phulpur for the first time (in 2014). We had been winning Gorakhpur repeatedly. We will examine where we slipped).”
While the BJP has won a string of assembly elections, it has been losing Lok Sabha bypolls in the Hindi heartland and adjoining states in the last one year.
In 2017, it lost bypolls in Amritsar in March, Srinagar a month later and Gurdaspur in October. Earlier this year, it lost Alwar and Ajmer in Rajasthan. In West Bengal, it lost the Uluberia seat the same day.
With the defeats Wednesday, the BJP has lost 10 Lok Sabha bypolls in the last one year — this includes Malappuram in Kerala last April though that is not a strength area of the BJP.
आज के नतीजे क्रांतिकारी व ऐतिहासिक हैं. ये बाँटने की नकारात्मक राजनीति करने वालों को एकजुट जनता का जवाब है और 2019 की ‘महाजीत’ का आग़ाज़ है. ये जीत पूरे देश में गूंजकर सरकार से त्रस्त किसान-मजदूर, कारोबारियों, बेराेज़गारों, महिलाओं और मध्यवर्ग को बदलाव के नये उत्साह से भर देगी.
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) March 14, 2018
The Gorakhpur seat, which the BJP had been winning since 1991 and was represented by Adityanath for five consecutive terms, saw SP’s Praveen Kumar Nishad defeating BJP’s Upendra Shukla.
The BSP, which announced support to SP a few days before polling, successfully transferred its Dalit votes to SP candidates in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur. On Wednesday, SP and BSP workers were seen celebrating the victories together.
Akhilesh Yadav’s move to field Nishad party leader Praveen Kumar Nishad prevented division of Nishad votes which number more than three lakh in Gorakhpur.
In OBC Patel-dominated Phulpur, SP’s Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP’s Kaushlendra Singh Patel. Independent candidate Atiq Ahmed, who fought as an Independent from Deoria jail, got a significant number of votes but failed to make a major dent in the SP-BSP votebank.