Even as the 2019 Lok Sabha election draws near, the path ahead for the BJP to retain its rule in New Delhi increasingly looks challenging, far from the buoyancy that it had ahead of the 2014 General elections, owing to the massive Narendra Modi wave that swept the country's political scene.
What's worse, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, on whose shoulders lies the huge responsibility of steering his party to a win in the state in the big poll next year, has failed to deliver on multiple occasions now.
How patient the BJP top brass would be, with these kinds of back-to-back failures, remains to be seen, as the defeats are a clear indicator of the growing clout of the Opposition in the state.
What's notable is that Congress is playing second fiddle in most of these contests, allowing regional satraps to lead the charge. The result so far has been impressive for the Opposition, which is trying to regroup after the big failures in Lok Sabka election 2014 and Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in 2017.
On Thursday, after nine rounds of counting in the Kairana Lok Sabha seat, Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal received 66.47 percent of the votes (46,909 votes) while BJP's Mriganka Singh got 31.13 percent (21,970 votes).
RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, who is leading Mriganka in the parliamentary constituency, looks confident of winning the seat if the trend continues in this manner. Mriganka also contested the Assembly elections in Kairana but lost heavily to Samajwadi Party's Nahid Hasan, who is the son of party's former MP Munawar Khan.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party is leading in the Noorpur Assembly seat as well. SP candidate Naeem Ul Hasan is currently ahead of BJP's Avani Singh in the Noorpur seat. The by election to Noorpur Assembly seat was necessitated by the death of sitting BJP MLA Lokendra Singh Chauhan in a road accident in February.
In Kairana, the grand alliance against BJP is at play, with the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and SP all offering their support to the RLD. Hassan had won the seat in 2009 on a BSP ticket, against Mriganka, daughter of BJP winner in 2014 Hukum Singh whose death necessitated the bypoll.
Kairana parliamentary constituency has five Assembly segments: Shamli, Thana Bhawan and Kairana in Shamli district, and Gangoh and Nakur in Saharanpur district. According to the Election Commission, there are 16.09 lakh voters in Kairana: 8.73 lakh male voters and 7.36 lakh female voters.
Noorpur Assembly constituency has 3.06 lakh voters. Apart from Kairana, where Samajwadi Party's Hasan represents the Assembly seat, all the remaining four Assembly seats falling under the Kairana Lok Sabha seat are with the BJP. Thana Bhawan is with Suresh Kumar, Shamli is with Tejendra Nirwal, Nakur is with Dharam Singh Saini and Gangoh is with Pradeep Kumar, all from the BJP.
However, despite the advantage, the combined strength of Congress, SP and RLD proved to be too much for the BJP. Adding salt to the wound, the Opposition replicated the formula they used in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by elections early this year, where the ruling party suffered an unexpected defeat. The withdrawal of candidature of Lok Dal's Kanwar Hasan from the fray and his joining of the RLD has only added to the Opposition's confidence.
Although Adityanath left no stone unturned in campaigning for the bypoll along with his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya in Saharanpur and Shamli, the efforts don't seem to be fruitful.
Apart from them, the BJP had thrown in at least five state ministers into the 'fight for Kairana'. They included Dharam Singh Saini (Minister of State for Ayush), Suresh Rana (sugarcane development minister), Anupama Jaiswal (basic education minister) Surya Pratap Shahi (agriculture minister) and Laxmi Narayan (religious affairs, culture, minority welfare, waqf and Haj minister). Jaiswal is the minister in charge of Shamli district, while Shahi is the minister in charge of Saharanpur.
"Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary has been roped in since he hails from a farming background," a senior Uttar Pradesh BJP leader had said. BJP MPs Sanjiv Baliyan, Raghav Lakhan Pal, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar and Kanta Kardam also actively campaigned for Mriganka.
The SP and Congress, however, had termed the line-up of Uttar Pradesh ministers as a sign of "party jitters".
According to the locals, the major issues in this bypoll are law and order and the woes of sugarcane growers. RLD candidate Hasan had accused the BJP-led state government of resorting to divisive politics.
"Sugarcane growers in the region are feeling the maximum amount of pain, as no payments have been made to them by the state government," she had told PTI, rejecting the official claim that the dues from sugar mills were being cleared.
The issue was also raised during an election meeting of state minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, who said that the dues accumulated from the time of the past governments had been paid out, and the rest would be settled soon.
"In Uttar Pradesh, 10,828.59 lakh quintals of sugarcane were purchased by sugar mills from farmers during the BJP government in 2017-18, as compared to 6443.41 lakh quintals under the Samajwadi Party government in 2015-16. Similarly, Rs 21,186.56 crore payments were made during the BJP government in the state in 2017-18, in comparison to Rs 11,841.34 crore made during the SP government in 2015-16," BJP spokesperson Chandramohan had said.
Divergent views also emerged on the reported 2016 exodus of Hindu families from Kairana.
"The area is adjacent to Panipat district in Haryana. The labourers (both Hindus and Muslims) from the area go to the neighbouring state to work in the industries there. They go in the morning and return in the evening," Hasan had said while rejecting the claims of any such exodus.
The RLD leader further said that the locked houses, even of Muslims who had gone to Panipat for work, were photographed and used as a "propaganda". "In Kairana, both Hindus and Muslims live in peace," she had added.
Mriganka, on the other hand, had said, "The exodus of Hindu families from Kairana has stopped now. But hundreds of Hindu families had fled from Kairana out of fear and harassment before the 2017 UP Assembly elections".
The present defeat would compound problems for the BJP as in March this year, SP had won both the Lok Sabha seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur, which were vacated by Adityanath and Maurya.
With the BSP backing its bitter rival Samajwadi Party, the BJP had to absorb a shock defeat in both the constituencies in what was seen as a major embarrassment to Adityanath in particular.
Samajwadi Party's Nagendra Singh Patel had won the Phulpur seat beating BJP's Kashlendra Singh Patel while Pravin Nishad of the Samajwadi Party won over the BJP candidate Upendra Dutt Shukla in Gorakhpur, which Adityanath had won five consecutive times.
The Uttar Pradesh bypolls are a timely wake-up call for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, as the charm of winning 325 seats in the 403-Assembly in the state last year is certainly gone. Along with it, the magic of winning 71 seats out of 80 in the 2014 Lok Sabha election has also vanished.
There is little doubt that the upcoming Lok Sabha election is altogether a different ball game and if BJP wants to repeat its 2014 feat, it'll have no choice but to totally rejig its electoral strategy.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 31, 2018 17:17:13 IST