The results of the elections for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in states across the country have thrown up results that are broadly disappointing for the BJP, and bring cheer to the Opposition. What are the key takeaways from the results? What do they portend for the big battle of 2019?
Strength of united Oppn, again
Defeats at the Kairana Lok Sabha seat and Noorpur Assembly seat are a setback for the BJP, and another indication that a united Opposition poses a major threat to its dominance of UP. The earlier indication had come in the Lok Sabha byelections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in March when, too, an alliance of the SP and BSP had defeated the BJP in its strongholds.
The defeat in Kairana indicates unrest among farmers, and anger against the BJP governments in both Lucknow and Delhi. Promises and claims on loan waivers and sugarcane dues have not worked. Thursday’s defeats are a personal blow to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who had campaigned with a battery of cabinet colleagues.
Kairana has given a new lease of life to the RLD, which currently has no MP or MLA. It now has a bargaining chip with other Opposition parties for seats ahead of 2019.
In 2019, TMC vs BJP foretold
The Trinamool has not only won Maheshtala, it has picked up a massive 58% of the vote. Maheshtala has a Muslim population of 41%, which seems to have backed the party solidly — a change from earlier elections in which the Muslim vote would be split between the TMC and CPM, with a small share going to the Congress. The reason is likely to be the visible threat of the BJP-RSS at the gates, and increasing marginalisation of the CPM and Congress. Indeed, the BJP has come in second — going from a little under 15,000 votes in 2016 to over 42,000 Thursday — pushing the CPM to third place.
While the BJP has gained through its polarising politics in West Bengal, the other beneficiary of this communal polarisation has been the Trinamool. The gains — on both sides — are likely to be reflected in the 2019 elections as well, which could well be TMC vs BJP in many constituencies.
Sena-BJP divide deepens
The BJP has won at the Palghar Lok Sabha seat and lost in Bhandara-Gondia, which the NCP has won. The big outcome of Thursday’s development, however, is likely to be an intensification of the tussle between the unhappy allies in government, Shiv Sena and BJP. The ugly contest at Palghar has put a fresh question mark on the alliance between the two saffron parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
For the BJP, defeat in Bhandara-Gondia — situated in the Vidarbha region that is perceived to be its stronghold — would be worrying. The election had been necessitated by the revolt of its MP Nana Patole against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the voters have now chosen the NCP’s Madhukar Kukade over the BJP’s Hemant Patle by a margin of over 48,000 votes.
Nitish blow, Tejashwi boost
Jokihat in Bihar’s Araria district had gone with the JD(U) since the Assembly polls of February 2005; victory for the RJD’s Shahnawaz Alam has broken Nitish Kumar’s four-election hold on the seat. In March, Shahnawaz’s brother Sarfaraz Alam won the Araria Lok Sabha seat that fell vacant after the death of their father Mohammad Taslimuddin. This second defeat in two and a half months suggests the Chief Minister is losing the votes that have helped him — and the NDA — do well in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the Seemanchal region over the past several years.
Had Nitish Kumar been able to retain Jokihat, it would have boosted his bargaining power with the BJP, and given him a reason to believe that Muslims have not deserted him altogether. For young Tejashwi Yadav, the result is proof of his increasing acceptability among voters and party workers as Lalu Prasad’s political heir.
BJP wins, popularity wanes
The BJP has retained the Tharali (SC) seat in Uttarakhand, but by a significantly reduced margin. The margin of its victory has fallen from 4,858 in the 2017 Assembly election to 1,981 in this byelection. Also, the BJP’s voteshare of 48.39% is 3.02 percentage points more than what it got last year; the Congress’s 44.67% vote, on the other hand, is 7.8 percentage points more than its 2017 share. For the BJP, which has as many as 57 MLAs in the 70-member House, and all five Lok Sabha MPs from the state, the result of Tharali is a cause for worry.
Unseen benefits of alliance
The election of the Congress candidate with a vote of 1,08,064 against his BJP rival’s 82,572 and the JD(S) candidate’s 60,360 in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar Assembly poll — postponed to May 28 on grounds of alleged electoral malpractice — is believed to be on account of the party’s coming together with the JD(S) to form the government after the May 12 elections. The JD(S) did not withdraw its candidate — however, some level of tacit understanding is reported to have occurred on the ground.
Congress party in Akali fort
The Congress victory in Shahkot is important because a byelection is often seen as a referendum on the government’s policies and popularity. This byelection carried the added significance of being an indicator of the political mood building up in Punjab ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The Shiromani Akali Dal has held Shahkot continuously for the last 41 years, barring the Assembly elections of 1992, which it boycotted. The Akalis will take consolation from the fact that they were able to largely retain their votes from the 2017 Assembly election, and that the Congress’s victory margin was largely due to the decimation of the AAP.
CPM margin shows BJP limits
The CPM’s phenomenal victory margin of 20,956 votes in Chengannur will reinforce the perception among the minorities, who constitute nearly 45% of the state’s electorate, that it is the Left, not the Congress, that can be seen as the better bet to fight the BJP. The saffron party will be disappointed with the 7,000 fewer votes it has got from its 2016 tally. The result will be seen as indication that despite some BJP gains, the state’s political arena will continue to be dominated by either the LDF or the UDF in 2019.
Old hands going strong
The NDPP, which rules Nagaland in alliance with the BJP, won the Lok Sabha bypoll, while Meghalaya’s Ampati Assembly constituency went to Congress. The NDPP’s victory signals the consolidation of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s power and popularity in the state, and bolsters the BJP’s position in the Northeast. Rio joined the NDPP after leaving the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in January. In 2014, he had won the seat on an NPF ticket. Ampati, on the other hand, has been a bastion of the Congress and Mukul Sangma has won the seat since 1993. His daughter Miani D Shira won on Thursday.