Bengaluru: In a major setback to the BJP, the saffron party and its allies were able to win just three out of the 14 seats — four Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly — where by-elections were held on 28 May.
A good performance in the by-elections, held across 11 states, was crucial for the BJP as the bypolls were considered as a referendum on the BJP rule at the Centre. The results come close on the heels of the BJP’s defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and ahead of the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha.
The BJP and its alliance partners held two of the four Lok Sabha seats that went to polls. While the NDA retained two Lok Sabha seats — one in Maharashtra and another in Nagaland — it was unable to retain two others - Kairana in UP and Bhandara-Gondia in Maharashtra. It won just one Assembly seat.
Lok Sabha seats
Kairana was perhaps the most closely watched constituency. BJP’s defeat in Kairana has sparked calls for a united opposition or a third front to stand against the saffron party in the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha. The byelection to Kairana was necessitated after the death of sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh. BJP candidate Mriganka Singh lost to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hasan who was backed by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress in Kairana. Hasan defeated Mriganka with a margin of nearly 50,000 votes.
Soon after her win, Hasan told reporters that the BJP lost because it focused on stoking communal issues instead of development in the region.“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has nothing to say about the real issues in our country that include development,” Tabassum said.
Palgarh, the only Lok Sabha seat that the BJP won, was held following the death of BJP MP Chintaman Wanga. The constituency, which falls in the north Konkan region of Maharashtra, is reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST). Shiv Sena had fielded Shriniwas Wanga, son of late BJP MP Chintaman Wanga, who was defeated by BJP’s Rajendra Gavit, a Congress rebel, by 29,572 votes. Elections in the constituency were marred by complaints of EVM tampering.
Another high-stake Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra was Bhandara-Gondia which was won by Madhukar Kukde of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with a comfortable margin of over 48,000 votes. The seat fell vacant after BJP’s Nana Patole resigned and joined the Congress. WhileKukde polled a total of 4,42,213 votes, BJP’s Hemant Patle received 3,94,116 votes.
The fourth Lok Sabha seat, Nagaland, went in the favour of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), a BJP ally in the north-eastern state. Bypoll in Nagaland was necessitated after the resignation of Neiphiu Rio from the Lok Sabha. Rio is the current chief minister of Nagaland.
The BJP’s performance in the Assembly seats that went to bypolls was quite dismal as it managed to win just one (in Uttarakhand). In comparison, the Congress bagged three seats — in Meghalaya, Karnataka, and Punjab — Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) won two seats in Jharkhand, whereas CPM, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress won one seat each in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, respectively.
It is in Uttar Pradesh that the chink in the BJP armour is most visible. Months after losing Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, the saffron party tasted defeat in both Kairana and Noorpur on Thursday. Naim Ul Hasan (RLD-backed Samajwadi Party candidate) defeated BJP’s Avani Singh by nearly 6,000 votes in Noorpur. The bypolls were held in Noorpur following the demise of BJP MLA Lokendra Singh Chauhan in a road accident.
Congress candidate Hardev Singh Laddi won the Shahkot seat by over 38,000 votes defeating Shiromani Akali Dal’s greenhorn candidate Naib Singh Kohar. Laddi got 82,745 votes while Kohar secured 43,944 votes. The third runner-up was AAP candidate Rattan Singh, who lost his security deposit and polled only 1,900 votes. Buoyed by the win, Congress leader and Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh said that despite camping in Shahkot, the SAD leadership failed to ensure victory for its candidate.
Unfazed by the lukewarm response to his party candidate, Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to attack the BJP. “Today’s results reflect that there is a lot of anger against the Modi government. Until now people were asking what is the option? Today, people are saying Modiji is not an alternative. Remove him first,” he tweeted.
The Shahkot Assembly seat fell vacant after the sudden demise of five-time SAD MLA Ajit Singh Kohar in February.
The only Assembly seat that the BJP retained was in Tharali in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand where it had fielded Munni Devi, widow of Magan Lal Shah who was the MLA from the constituency.
Political analysts attributed BJP’s win by a slender margin of over 1,900 votes to sympathy wave for Munni Devi. The match was a closely fought one between the BJP and the Congress. Jeet Ram, the Congress candidate, polled 23,756 votes as opposed to 25,737 polled by Munni Devi.
In Bihar, RJD won the Jokihat Assembly seat by defeating BJP’s ally JD(U). The result is a setback to chief minister Nitish Kumar who deserted the RJD and the Congress Mahagathbandhan last year to team up with the BJP for a new coalition government in Bihar. RJD’s candidate Shahnawaz Alam won the seat by over 41,000 votes. He was backed by Hindustani Awaz Morcha and the Congress.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashvi Yadav held a press conference after the party’s victory and said that the JD(U) had lost because it fielded a candidate who was facing rape charges. Bypoll in the seat was also marred by allegations of EVM tampering and VVPAT snags. Repolling was conducted in many booths on Wednesday.
In BJP-ruled Jharkhand, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha retained both Silli and Gomia seats. In Silli, JMM’s Seema Mahto defeated All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) chief and former deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto by 13,000 votes. Seema is the wife of Amit Mahto, who lost his Assembly seat after being convicted and awarded a jail term in a criminal case. In Gomia, JMM’s Babita Devi defeated AJSU candidate Lambodar Mahto by 1,344 votes while BJP’s nominee Madhavlal Singh finished third on the seat.
The seat fell vacant after two-time All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) MLA Kasturi Das died in February. Kasturi’s husband Dulal Das from Trinamool bagged 104,818 votes against 41,993 polled by BJP candidate Sujit Ghosh.
Congress candidate Miani D Shira, daughter of former chief minister Mukul Sangma, won the Ampati assembly seat in Meghalaya. The victory has taken Congress's tally in Meghalaya to 21 seats, making it the single largest party in the state.
Kerala’s ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF)’s Saji Cheriyan won the Chengannur Assembly bypoll by a margin of over 20,956 votes defeating D Vijay Kumar of the United Democratic Front.
In Maharashtra’s Palus Kadegaon Assembly constituency, Congress candidate Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam registered a win. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of Congress MLA Patangrao Kadam.
(With inputs from Kusum Arora, Jaideep Deogarhiya and Utsa Sarmin; Arjun Sharma is a Ludhiana-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
Updated Date: Jun 01, 2018 16:51 PM