UP By-election 2018: Defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur wake up calls for Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath

A year ago, when the then Gorakhpur Lok Sabha MP Yogi Adityanath  assumed charge as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister on 19 March, such was the euphoria of victory in the BJP that there was almost a general belief that the Opposition of all hue and stature simply was sucked into the black hole of defeat. BJP was nearly deemed invincible: Winning a whopping 325 out of 403 Assembly seats as the hapless Opposition was reduced into a miserable state of soul-searching.

File image of Yogi Adityanath with Narendra Modi. Courtesy: Twitter/@CMOfficeUP

File image of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Courtesy: Twitter/@CMOfficeUP

A year later it's an altogether different story. Having strayed into a complete path of disarray, the Opposition soon realised that the motto — united we stand, divided we fall — was the only way to try and stop the winning streak of the BJP.

Such was the determination to take on the BJP, that once bitter rivals — Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party — joined hands to uproot BJP from the Lok Sabha constituencies of Gorakhpur and Phulpur which were vacated by Yogi and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya. As counting of votes continues in the bypolls of Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the trends decisively indicate a win for the Samajwadi Party candidates in both the seats.

In terms of arithmetic in Lok Sabha, the BJP with 273 seats is comfortably placed and even after these defeats the Narendra Modi government won't be disturbed when it comes to the majority in the House. But more than the math, it is the political message that will ring large. BJP is no longer the formidable unit of 2014 which, buoyed on the Narendra Modi wave, and Uttar Pradesh where the party created a twosome magic with spectacular victories in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections ceases to be a fortress for the saffron forces.

Had it been a victory for the party, the credit would have obviously gone to the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah and to the good governance of the state by Yogi. It will be interesting to see who will take the blame for these bypoll fiascos. The failures will also reflect on the leadership qualities of Yogi who was parachuted from Lok Sabha by the BJP central leadership as the chief minister to the utter surprise of party leaders, political experts and the media. More than Romeo squads and Falgun Mahotsav, the state government needs to deliver on development and employment, at least which goes beyond mere photo opportunities and rhetoric.

Now that the defeats are inevitable there may be some excuses for sure to offer. Writing for Firstpost, Raj Silvano and Saurabh Sharma of m 101Reporters indicated earlier that the humiliation of the BJP in these seats won't be a surprise.

"While BJP’s choice of Upendra Shukla in Gorakhpur was against Yogi’s wish, Kaushalendra Patel got the Phulpur ticket against Maurya’s wish. But both leaders have campaigned vigorously for the party’s candidates. More than in Gorakhpur, the party was faced with an uphill task in Phulpur with the entire leadership having diverted its energy to address rallies to woo voters, especially backwards. Yogi and Maurya have addressed several rallies. Whether the turnout at the rallies would convert into votes will be decided on 11 March, when votes are cast, indications are that a united show of strength put up by opposition parties seems to have dimmed BJP’s prospects in Phulpur, where Keshav Maurya had defeated his nearest rival BSP candidate Kapil Karvariya in 2014 by more than three lakh votes. Maurya, however, is putting up a brave face by claiming that the BJP will even surpass the victory margin of 2014," Silvano and Sharma wrote.

It has to be kept in mind that Yogi won the Gorakhpur seat five times before he was brought in to the secretariat in Lucknow. Phulpur happened to be represented thrice by Jawaharlal Nehru.

With just a year left for the Lok Sabha election in 2019, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no dream run for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh if they cannot get their house in order soon. In 2014, the party won an incredible 71 seats out of 80, which is actually more number of seats than many states combined together.

Whether the party decides to brush aside the defeats or accept what went wrong, it's a different matter altogether, but the rise of the Opposition from the dust is real and it's here. Modi knows it and so does Shah. It's time Yogi takes heed.


Published Date: Mar 14, 2018 16:39 PM | Updated Date: Mar 14, 2018 16:39 PM

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