Demonetisation, various agitations against the BJP for allegedly failing to move forward on the promises it had made in the April assembly elections, and the most sensitive issue of granting citizenship to Bengali Hindu migrants looks like having failed to impact upon the party’s electoral prospects in the just-concluded by-elections in Assam. While the party won both bypolls – the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat and the Boithalangso assembly seat – its vote-share has gone up in both constituencies within a gap of just six months. In Lakhimpur, the BJP polled 56,768 votes more than in the April assembly elections, while in the Boithalangso LAC it went up by over 19,000 votes.
The Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat had fallen vacant after its sitting MP and then union minister Sarbananda Sonowal won the assembly election from Majuli in April and resigned after taking over as chief minister. In Baithalangso, the seat fell vacant after sitting Congress MLA Mansingh Rongpi resigned and joined the BJP.
But what is significant is that though BJP’s Pradan Baruah polled 56,768 more votes in the nine assembly segments under Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency in the just-concluded by-election in comparison to what the party had polled in April, the vote-share this time was much less than what Sonowal had polled in 2014. While Sonowal had polled 6,12,543 votes in 2014, Baruah could poll only 5,51,663 votes – a clear difference of 60,880 votes.
“The most significant thing is that we have polled more votes within six months. This clearly indicates that there has been no negative impact of demonetisation on the voters. Moreover, though some people have been very critical of our government in the past few months, the figures prove that the faith of the common people have increased,” Rupam Goswami, spokesman of the state BJP said.
Sonowal’s BJP-led government has been facing several agitations since it took charge in May this year. While six communities have resumed their agitation demanding Scheduled Tribe status, the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) has also revived its demand for creation of Bodoland. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and its allies – as also the AGP, an ally of the BJP – on the other hand have expressed total opposition to the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh.
Tripura: BJP rise worries Left
In Tripura on the other hand, results of the by-election to two assembly constituencies have definitely proved that the BJP has made significant inroads into the Left bastion. Though the party has failed to win any of the two seats, its vote-share has increased sharply, ringing alarm bells at the state CPI(M) headquarters at Melarmath in Agartala.
In Barjala LAC, where by-election was necessitated after sitting Congress MLA Jitendra Sarkar had resigned, the BJP’s vote-share went up from a meagre 511 in 2013 to 12,395 in a little over three years. In Khowai LAC on the other hand it increased from 232 in 2013 to 2528 last week. While the CPI(M) wrested Barjala with BJP coming a close second, it comfortably retained Khowai, but not before watching Trinamool Congress rise to the second spot.
“We have worked very hard, and with more people understanding the dangers of voting again and again for the CPI(M), we hope to make a turn-around for politics in Tripura in the 2018 assembly elections,” said Biplab Deb, Tripura BJP president in Agartala.
CPI(M) state secretary Bijan Dhar however has preferred to speak very cautiously on the outcome of the two by-elections. “There is neither any reason to rejoice too much, nor to express any concern. The fact remains that the people of Tripura have remained committed to vote for development,” Dhar said in Agartala.
Dhar however admitted that both BJP and TMC were able to attract a sizeable number of voters. “It is true that the two parties have attracted more votes than before. But the fact remains that counter-revolutionary forces too raise their heads when the revolutionary forces become stronger,” he said. Significantly, while the BJP’s total vote in Khowai went up by 2118 since 2013, it has dipped by 1698 in Barjala