The recently concluded bypolls in Bawana, Nandyal and Goa are reflective of a very decisive electorate. The Delhi voters gave Aam Aadmi Party a victory in Bawana after defeat in the MCD polls and Rajouri byelections. In Nandyal, TDP, which has been an occasional winner won the seat from a two time YSR MLA. However, the Goa election was no surprise with the absence of any strong rival for BJP candidate Manohar Lal Parrikar.
All these three bypolls have managed to leave a mark for the respective states' Assembly election. It has put AAP on the political map of Delhi again, proved that BJP was not wrong in forming a government in Goa after the February Assembly elections and the Nandyal result could spell an end to YSR's brand of politics.
Delhi keeps pulling Arvind Kejriwal and his party back from the grave. Just when Kejriwal seemed to be down and out, Delhi voters gave him a new life by giving his party a big win in the Bawana byelection.
AAP candidate Ram Chander won by a margin of over 24,000 votes over the BJP candidate and with a vote share of 45.3 percent. Congress just got under 4,000 votes.
This win will reaffirm AAP in Delhi's political circle and force BJP to reassess its strategy in the national capital. This is the saffron party’s second major defeat since the 2015 Assembly Election when AAP floored BJP after a resounding victory.
BJP, as The Times of India pointed out, seems to have paid the price of adopting rebel AAP MLA Ved Prakash. BJP conceded that the election became candidate centric, which is why it failed to defeat AAP. Resentment ran high in the party against Prakash for having switched parties. Meanwhile, AAP managed to get the support of influential BJP leaders, including former MLA Guggan Singh.
BJP leaders have also blamed Prakash's "negative image" in Bawana as a "major reason" behind the party's loss. "He was perceived as a deserter by locals after quitting the AAP. People were not happy with him as he had not made a mark even during his three years as the Bawana MLA," a senior Delhi BJP leader told The Times of India.
Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta’s role is also being questioned because he insisted on making Prakash the BJP candidate.
A section of the BJP was not happy with Prakash getting the ticket and "internal bickering is to be blamed," another BJP leader told Hindustan Times.
"There was resistance to his candidature. Even a group of party workers from rural areas went to meet national president Amit Shah and registered their resentment,” said a district level worker who worked closely with the campaign.
An internal BJP report assessed by India Today blamed four former party MLAs - Kulwant Rana, Manoj Shokeen, Neeldaman Khatri and Rajesh Gehlot – for the loss. The report also identified at least 18 party members who did not work in the “interest of the party”.
"The internal assessment has found these leaders indulging in consistent self-glorification instead of working for the party. The poll management was directionless and outsiders were deputed on polling booths," a senior BJP leader told India Today.
The win in Bawana after a miserable defeat in the Rajouri byelection seems to be a result of changes in Kejriwal's behaviour. As this Firstpost article notes, Kejriwal went from being outspoken and never missing an opportunity to criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a man of few words who made a great effort to reach out to the people.
According to AAP sources, the development pitch raised by the party in the run-up to the poll campaign impressed voters, Hindustan Times reported. When Firstpost asked him the reason for his absence from the limelight, he said, "Ab kaam karna hai."
"Kejriwal also did door-to-door campaigning in the area, making many promises that seem to have worked for the AAP," said Congress candidate Surender Kumar.
The party also re-established its connect with people and energised party cadre after the defeat in MCD polls.
"The party launched its poll preparations soon after the MCD elections. Introspection at various levels helped the party identify the areas where course correction was required," said a party leader.
AAP also tapped villages which have been traditionally backed the BJP and the Congress. The game changer, as The Indian Express pointed out, may have been the 'Smart Village' scheme announced by the AAP government.
According to Gopal Rai, this focus on rural villages revolved around the Delhi government’s decision to give "Rs two crore to each village annually under the 'Smart Village' scheme."
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar won the Panaji Assembly byelection defeating his Congress rival Girish Chodankar by 4,803 votes. Parrikar polled 9,862 votes against 5,059 by Chodankar.
Parrikar said that while it is a huge moral victory for the BJP-led ruling coalition, it will also negate the perception that BJP went against the mandate of the February Assembly polls to form a government under him
Although the Congress wanted to put up a "strong fight," its candidate Chodankar was an outsider to Panaji, thus making it an unequal contest. Just weeks before the election former Congress minister Babush Monserrate, who was expected to take on Parrikar in Panaji, switched camps and moved to the Goa Forward Party.
Parrikar also had all his allies, as The Indian Express pointed out, sitting behind mikes and supporting him and speaking of his policies.
However, it is a moral victory for the Congress, which has never managed to win over 5,000 votes against Parrikar in previous elections. Chodankar spent two weeks in a house-to-house campaign, The Wire reported.
The ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) defeated the YSR Congress party by a margin of 27,000 votes and this victory comes as a major jolt to the YSRCP. Nandyal is considered as a stronghold of YSR and its leader Shilpa Mohan Reddy has been the MLA of Nandyal twice.
The YSR campaign was led by its chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy and the TDP pitched in Tollywood star and its MLA Balarishana Reddy for the campaign, according to an India Today report.
Jaganmohan camped at Nandyal for 13 days and even said that chief minister Chandrababu Naidu be shot on the streets for cheating people of Andhra Pradesh. This landed him in trouble with the Election Commission and criminal cases were filed against him. He termed the TDP victory as the victory of money power.
"The TDP leadership pumped in money to lure voters. Nevertheless, I respect the people's verdict," Hindustan Times quoted him as saying.
However, the YSR may also bemoan the choice of its candidate, Shilpa Mohan Reddy, a turncoat from the TDP at the last minute, as this Firstpost piece notes. It showed the paucity of talent in its ranks and pointed to the fact that in faction-hit Rayalaseema region, political parties are unable to look beyond candidates hailing from powerful feudal families.
Updated Date: Aug 29, 2017 15:48 PM