Beyond Kairana: Not a pretty picture for BJP

Maharashtra, two Lok Sabha seats were fought for. Once rivals Congress and Nationalist Congress Party fought as a team and once brothers in saffron BJP and Shiv Sena fought each other, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party putting up as candidate the son of the MP whose death necessitated the bypoll in Palghar. The BJP took this seat, but by a winning margin of about 30,000 votes as opposed to almost 300,000 in the 2014 election. The other Maharashtra seat was Bhandara-Gondiya, in the saffron-friendly Vidarbha region. The BJP lost the seat, and face. It lost to the NCP by a good 50,000-odd votes. In 2014, the BJP candidate Nana Patole—whose defection to the Congress over what he called PM Modi’s neglect of farmer’s issues—had won by three times that margin. The wave is gone, and more importantly, the Shiv Sena who the BJP calls its oldest ally has had its claws out for Big Brother through the campaign, and now after it even as the larger party is articulating placatory whimpers. Maharashtra gave the BJP-SS partnership 41 of its 48 Lok Sabha seats last time, and a resurgent Congress-NCP partnership in the absence of a Modi wave is bad news indeed for the BJP. Kneeling before Uddhav may well be the best-case scenario for the BJP in next year’s big one, and even that may not help much. The one seat from Nagaland went to BJP ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, as expected—one of the truisms of Indian politics is that Northeast voters tend to back the ruling party at the Centre in bypolls. The BJP has made great inroads in the Northeast region in recent years—it rules in six of the ‘seven sisters’ now—but it’s also true even a vigorous performance here in 2019 will not make much impact on the big numbers of the next Lok Sabha election.The seven states put together have as many seats as Rajasthan alone. Kairana was the big loss, a united Opposition defeating the BJP with voters cutting across caste and religious lines to back the challenger. Also, it cannot be overlooked that Prime Minister Modi held a massive roadshow in a nearby district to showcase a spanking new highway, and followed it up the same day— one day before the vote in Kairana—with a rally in Baghpat where he reached to sugarcane farmers. He got the issue right, for it was ‘ganna over Jinnah’ in the end, only voters didn’t expect the BJP to address the issue. Shades of Karnataka in Kairana; Modi uping his rallies from 15 to 21 didn’t turn the southern state around, and Baghpat didn’t do the trick either. The new battle order that is coming up has even resurrected Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal that got wiped out from its western Uttar Pradesh stronghold last time. It is also significant to note that Ajit’s father, and once prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh was the architect of the Hindu-Muslim peace and amity that sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh once exemplified. That peace was missing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election: polarisation may have crossed its expiration date in the the largest arena of 2019 . The Assembly seats The BJP got just one—Tharali in Uttarakhand—in a set that was sprinkled pretty representatively across the nation. Noteworthy here is desperately thin margin of victory—about 2,000 votes—in what has been traditionally regarded as a saffron state since it was created about two decades ago by an NDA government. Uttarakhand isn’t in the BJP bag either for 2019. In Punjab, the seat of Shahkot was taken from the Akali Dal by the Congress. Punjab has been regarded as a bellwether state, and the Congress victory in the 2017 Assembly elections as the backdrop of the latest contest has a strong message for the BJP. Significantly, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate came third, losing his deposit and even the vote in his native village in the process. The Akali Dal is down for the count, and AAP has slid out of the reckoning. More worrisome for the BJP is that Haryana’s simmering peasantry appears set to follow the Punjab example, with both Congress and the Chautala clan resurgent in the agricultural state. That’s 23 Lok Sabha seats from the two agrarian neighbour states for 2019 the BJP needs to worry about. In West Bengal, Didi’s Trinamool took the Maheshtala seat by over a chunky 60,000-vote margin. The BJP came second but that’s just a repeat of what has been happening in the state despite a focussed saffron effort, a noticeable increase in its popular support but one that’s not enough to shake Mamata Banerjee. Didi’s in the saddle, and she looks set to ride unscathed through the 2019 battle. Jokihat in Bihar was another upset, Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal winning this battle of prestige and stamping another question mark on Nitish Kumar’s swinging politics. This is the third straight loss for Nitish after he dumped the RJD and Congress in July 2017 to walk out of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) that had so comprehensively won the 2015 Assembly elections, Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanbad Assembly bypolls the other two that the RJD took. Given the RJD’s incredible performance in 2015—it won 81 of the 101 seats it contested—and the way its fortunes remain on the up, the future isn’t looking too bright for either Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) or the BJP. And Nitish may well be out of swinging room. Bihar could be where this unlikeliest of BJP allies sinks with the saffron party in 2019. Ampati in Meghalaya brought back memories of Karnataka again, as Congress candidate Miani D Shira, daughter of former chief minister Mukul Sangma defeated Clement G Momin of the National People’s Party. With 21 legislators, the Congress is now the single largest party in the state Assembly, and can, following the Karnataka model, stake claim to form the government. The NPP has 20 seats and the support of 15 other MLAs, including two from the BJP. In Karnataka, fresh from the churn of the recent Assembly elections and the hurly-burly of government formation, the Congress thumbed its nose at the BJP, winning the RR Nagar bypoll with 40,000 votes to spare. If not entirely expected, the other results were not as surprising. They are: * Chengannur, Kerala: CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front’s Saji Cheriyan beat Congress as well as BJP candidates. * Noorpur, Uttar Pradesh: Samajwadi Party candidate Naeemul Hasan, supported by the Congress, BSP and AAP beat the BJP candidate by 6,000-odd votes, a relatively slim margin but yet another winner for a combined Opposition. * Silli and Gomia, Jharkhand: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) retained both seats. * Palus Kadegaon, Maharashtra: Congress candidate Vishwajeet Patangrao Kadam, the son of sitting MLA Patangrao Kadam whose death neccessitated the poll, won the seat uncontested. — The author tweets @NSDahiya]]>

United Oppn humiliates BJP in byelections

कैराना और नूरपुर की जनता, कार्यकर्ताओं, उम्मीदवारों व सभी एकजुट दलों को जीत की हार्दिक बधाई! कैराना में सत्ताधारियों की हार उनकी अपनी ही प्रयोगशाला में, देश को बाँटने वाली उनकी राजनीति की हार है. ये एकता-अमन में विश्वास करने वाली जनता की जीत व अहंकारी सत्ता के अंत की शुरूआत है.

— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) May 31, 2018 However, opposition leaders saw a big boost for strengthening non-BJP unity with the ruling party losing Kairana Lok Sabha seat in the politically important UP to a united Opposition after a communally-charged election campaign, while the result in the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra was similar. The BJP retained another Lok Sabha seat from Maharashtra, Palghar, where it had faced its own ally Shiv Sena, but the Opposition could not put a united fight. BJP’s Rajendra Gavit won the seat, defeating Shiv Sena’s Shrinivas Wanaga. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, however, alleged “discrepancies” in counting of votes for Palghar. In Nagaland, the fourth Lok Sabha seat for which bypoll was held on Monday, went to BJP’s ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). While the Lok Sabha bypoll results were equally divided at 2-2 between the BJP-led alliance and the opposition parties, figures for the 10 assembly bypolls came as a big setback for the ruling party which could win just one (in Uttarakhand). The Congress bagged three (in Meghalaya, Karnataka and Punjab) and others got six — JMM two in Jharkhand; CPI (M), SP, RJD and Trinamool one each in Kerala, UP, Bihar and West Bengal, respectively. The Congress also won one assembly seat in Maharashtra without contest after all other parties withdrew their candidates. The Congress, which retained RR Nagar assembly in Karnataka and another in Meghalaya, termed the bypoll results as the people’s mandate against four years of the Modi rule and the beginning of the end of the BJP empire. “The writing on the wall is clear. The BJP’s exit and success of the Congress and its allies are guaranteed,” Congress leader Pramod Tiwari told reporters. The results appeared more marked against the BJP after taking into account the parties that had held these seats earlier. While the BJP alliance retained two LS seats — one in Maharashtra and another in Nagaland — it lost two others — UP’s Kairana and Maharashtra’s Bhandara-Gondiya. The BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the party will analyse the cause of defeat in the two LS seats. In assembly seats, the BJP and its allies failed to retain Noorpur in UP and Shahkot in Punjab, while Congress, CPI (M), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Trinamool retained their respective seats. The BJP retained Tharali in Uttarakhand, but lost Noorpur in UP. SP’s Naeemul Hasan trounced BJP’s Avni Singh in Noorpur. In Bihar, RJD won minority-dominated Jokihat by defeating BJP ally JD(U) by a huge margin. A buoyed Tejashwi Yadav of RJD said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who dumped the RJD and the Congress last year to join hands with the BJP to form a new coalition government in the state, should resign if he has some conscience left. Senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said one has to take two steps backward before a big leap and the BJP is “going to take a massive leap.” BJP’s Subramanian Swamy, however, had a word of caution for the party and said the “this huge setback in by polls is due to Hubris”. “But the trend is easily reversible if party stops rewarding sycophancy and has more participatory decision making ethos amongst those leaders whom the public find credible. BJP has infrastructure to bounce back but needs a new ethos,” he said. AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the results reflect the anger against the Modi government. The UP results came as the biggest upset for the BJP with the joint opposition candidate, RLD’s Tabassum Hasan, winning in Kairana. The seat had fallen vacant after death of the BJP candidate Mriganka Singh’s father, Hukum Singh. Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav called the results “a defeat of divisive politics” and congratulated all opposition parties for the results. RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary said the opposition unity will continue and the results showed that “Jinnah hara, Ganna jeeta” — referring to the recent controversy over the Pakistan founder’s portrait and the problems being faced by sugarcane farmers. (PTI)]]>