By-poll results clearly indicate BJP's days of supremacy are over, with Congress poised to make a comeback

The Congress has shown that it has the potential to challenge the BJP nationally in a large number of states and a firm support base is sticking to the Grand Old Party

Representative photo: Congress Flag
Representative photo: Congress Flag

Nitya Chakraborty

The results of the by-polls of thirty assembly constituencies and three Lok Sabha seats announced on November 2 make it clear that the BJP's days of supremacy in Indian politics are over. The Congress has staged a significant comeback while the regional parties have more or less maintained their respective turf, excepting TRS in Telangana which lost a seat to the BJP. Trinamool Congress in West Bengal improved its share to a record level of more than 80 per cent in two out of four seats.

What do these results signal for the assembly elections to five states-Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur in February/March 2022? Congress is the main national party facing the BJP in all these five states except Uttar Pradesh where the Samajwadi Party is also a contender. Congress has shown that it has the potential to challenge the BJP nationally in a large number of states and a firm support base is sticking to the Grand Old Party.

The BJP has done well in Assam and its allies in other northeast states. Also, BJP has done well in Madhya Pradesh while the Congress has done exceedingly well in Himachal Pradesh, stunning the BJP which is the ruling party in the state for two consecutive terms.

For the Congress, this is a big boost as Himachal is going for assembly elections in November 2022 and this result in the state will certainly give a big encouragement to its grassroots level workers and the organisational leaders. Similarly, the Congress has maintained its hold in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

As regards West Bengal, the TMC under Mamata Banerjee not only wrested two BJP assembly seats this time, apart from retaining two, but what is significant is that in just six months after the last assembly elections, the BJP votes came down drastically from more than 30 per cent to just around 10 per cent in two seats. In only one seat, BJP got 23.3 per cent as against 54 .8 per cent received by the TMC candidate.

This trend indicates that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections results were unusual and it is more than likely that TMC will get back its old seat tally of 34 in the next Lok Sabha poll in 2024. Even this tally may improve.

For the CPI(M), despite the Left Front being third in all the four seats after TMC and BJP, there is some consolation. CPI(M) contested two seats leaving the other two to its allies Forward Bloc and the RSP. While in one seat, CPI(M) candidate got 19.57 per cent and in the other 10.39 per cent, the allies got only 2.79 and1.66 per cent votes respectively. The CPI(M) votes improved compared to the average of around 5 per cent in the last assembly elections. While BJP lost deposits in three out of four seats, CPI(M) lost deposits in only one as against two contested.

For the central leadership of the CPI(M), the time has come to ensure that its assessment of the national situation and the task of reviving the party in West Bengal percolate to every level of the Bengal leadership.

The Left, especially the CPI(M) needs hardcore fighters like the party had in the 1960s to expand the base among the poor which is now the bastion of Trinamool.

BJP’s communal base in West Bengal is shrinking as a good section of floating voters who shifted to BJP from the Hindus, who were unhappy with both Left and TMC, have now come back, some to TMC and a smaller number to Left. The Left has to build up its lost base on these returnees. The Congress and the civil society, which are very active in the state, have to be accommodated to fight BJP at the national level and TMC for its wrong actions and corrupt practices of its leaders at the state level.

As regards the national political scene, the BJP's central leadership is clearly worried and they have started reviews for taking corrective action, taking into account the impact on the next assembly elections.

Congress has to do the same more vigorously for Madhya Pradesh the North East. MP will go for assembly elections by the end of 2023.

For assembly elections in Goa, Congress is facing a threat from Trinamool as the party is getting support from the civil society and a very influential local media house. Trinamool may get some seats, but the Congress is still strong and if the verdict is fractured, there can be a coalition of Congress and Trinamool after elections.

In Punjab, Congress has to unite all the factions and ensure a smooth victory. The BJP is in bad shape there. Akalis and the new party floated by Capt Amarinder Singh may not pose a big challenge if Congress puts up a united fight. AAP has lost some of the lustre it acquired during the last elections.

In Uttarakhand and Manipur, the BJP has been working hard with its machinery for a long. In Uttarakhand, Congress has a good chance, if the party fights unitedly. In Manipur, Congress has to work with the anti-BJP small outfits of the state. There is good scope for revival since the ruling government is discredited, being neck-deep in corruption.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress workers are buoyant as Priyanka Gandhi has created a stir by announcing that 40 per cent of the Congress candidates will be women in the coming assembly elections. The move has been welcomed by women in general though it is too early to assess its impact on voting early next year.

In sum, the election scenario for the 2022 assembly elections seems quite interesting as the BJP and Congress will make all efforts to outdo each other on the voting day. Amit Shah’s status has diminished after the poll debacle in West Bengal. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will do their most to navigate BJP to safe shores amidst the present tumult.

For Modi, the hearing of the Pegasus issue after submission of the probe panel report is due in January 2022, just in the course of campaigning for assembly polls. His very credibility is in question.

More such new elements will come into play in the next three months before the assembly elections. The outcome will have a crucial role in determining the political discourse before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

(IPA service)

(Views are personal)

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Published: 03 Nov 2021, 6:15 PM