The Kairana bypoll result is being scrutinised for its national resonance. The issue of Opposition unity and whether a united Opposition at the national level could dent the BJP’s chances in the 2019 general election is a talking point. But bypoll results do not always reflect the national trend; they are more influenced by local factors and issues than national sentiment. While bypolls tend to favour the party in power, the BJP has lost the past four bypolls in UP. Hence, the defeats in Kairana parliamentary constituency and Noorpur assembly seat, weeks after the losses on Gorakhpur and Phulpur, also raise questions about the record of the BJP government in Lucknow. The day after the results, two UP BJP MLAs publicly asserted that the bypoll defeats were due to “rampant corruption” and “inefficient ministers”.
The BJP rode to power in UP on the wings of an aggressive campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though the party won 325 seats, the leadership opted for Adityanath, a Lok Sabha MP who did not contest the assembly election, as chief minister. Since then, Adityanath has been projected, inside and outside UP, as the new mascot of political Hindutva — he has been launched as a BJP star campaigner in other states including Karnataka and Maharashtra. During these outings, he has projected his record in office in UP as an alternative to the governance models in states like Kerala. The fact, however, is that his government has been slipping while the CM got busy in election campaigns in the state and elsewhere. It was under his watch that several children died in the Gorakhpur medical college hospital. The rule of law in the state has been compromised with cow protection gangs roaming free while a trigger-happy police force is focussed on encounters to not just combat but eliminate alleged criminals. Western UP has been restive since the Saharanpur clashes in which Dalits were targeted — at least four of the BJP’s Dalit MPs from UP have questioned the party’s commitment to protecting the rights and security of Dalits. Farmers are angry that the BJP government has not honoured its promise to clear the arrears due to sugarcane farmers — this issue seems to have played a major role in the party’s defeat in Kairana.
The BJP won the 2017 mandate in UP by promising change. The bypoll results and the growing murmurs of dissent within the party indicate that Adityanath needs to reset his focus and deliver on governance if the BJP is to repeat its 2014 showing in the next general election.