As the vote count in Bihar progressed slowly late into Tuesday evening, the BJP received a major boost in byelections held for Assembly seats elsewhere across the country.
In Madhya Pradesh, it had won or established a lead in 19 of the 28 Assembly seats for which byelections were held on November 3, which ensured that the government of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is no longer under threat.
At 11 pm on Tuesday, the BJP had won or was leading at 40 of the 59 Assembly seats that went to bypolls, including a seat in Manipur at which the BJP candidate was elected unopposed.
For the Congress, the only good news came from Chhattisgarh and Haryana, where it won byelections to the Marwahi and Baroda seats respectively. The Congress also won the Bermo seat in Jharkhand, while its ally Jharkhand Mukti Morcha won in Dumka.
The results underlined the general trend of the ruling party of the state having the upper hand in Assembly byelections. Baroda in Haryana, where the election was necessitated by the death of the veteran Congress leader Sri Krishan Hooda, was the exception.
The BJP said the results demonstrated the change in the “grammar of Indian politics”, in that “performance and development” had been rewarded by voters.
“The victory of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and other bypolls have underscored the point the BJP has been making: that the politics of performance and development would prevail. This is an endorsement that despite issues related to caste, class and community, performance matters. All these indicate a change in the grammar of Indian politics,” senior BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said.
The bitterly contested elections in Madhya Pradesh were brought on by the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress, who took with him 22 MLAs, resulting in the fall of Kamal Nath’s 15-month-old government. All these MLAs joined the BJP, and another three Congress MLAs left subsequently. Three other seats in the House had fallen vacant after sitting MLAs died.
The BJP, which has 107 MLAs, needed to win 9 of the 28 seats that went to polls in order to cross the halfway mark in the 230-member Assembly. Scindia, who fought a prestige battle in the Gwalior-Chambal region, delivered for the BJP, while the performance of the Congress – which had won 6 and was leading at 3 seats at 11 pm – was a loss of face for its senior leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.
The showing in Madhya Pradesh will enable Scindia to bargain hard ahead of the reshuffle of the Narendra Modi ministry at the Centre. The results are also important for BJP leader Narendra Singh Tomar, who had played a key role in bringing the rebel Congress MLAs to the party. The impressive performance will enhance his stature in the party, and could give a boost to his chief ministerial ambitions.
In Karnataka, the BJP’s victories underscored the popularity of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. The victory in Sira, a Vokkaliga-dominated seat that the BJP had never won earlier, has enhanced the political stature of Yediyurappa’s son B Y Vijayendra who was in charge of the campaign. Party sources said the victories could silence BSY’s critics at least for the time being.
The BJP’s Rajesh Gowda defeated the Congress’s T B Jayachandra, a former minister, by over 12,000 votes in Sira. The Rajarajeshwari Nagar seat was won by the BJP’s Munirathna. JD(S) candidates finished third at both seats.
The byelections were the first electoral challenge for the newly appointed Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar. Shivakumar and his brother and MP D K Suresh had led the Congress campaign and hoped for a Vokkaliga vote consolidation in favour of the party. Munirathna had represented the R R Nagar seat twice for the Congress.
In UP, the Samajwadi Party won only the Malhani seat, which it had won in 2017 as well. The BJP’s performance will elevate Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s stature further in the party. Adityanath has faced criticism recently for his government’s handling of the Hathras incident.
The Congress won Baroda in Haryana’s Sonipat district by a bigger margin than last time. The Jat-dominated seat is a stronghold of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
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