Samajwadi Party candidates, supported by the Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Nishad Party and Peace Party, defeated BJP candidates in Lok Sabha byelections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the home turfs of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively.
With these results, the BJP strength in the Lok Sabha stands at 273 seats, plus the seat of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. There are five vacant seats in the Lok Sabha, at present—2 in Maharashtra and 1 each in Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland and J&K. Of these, the BJP is unlikely to win the Anantnag seat in J&K, considered the family seat of PDP Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. It would need to retain the Kairana seat in UP—which it can’t be sure about given the performance of the SP-BSP combine today—and Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya seats in Maharashtra. Perhaps, it can convince its partner in the Nagaland government, NDPP, to let it contest the seat just vacated by newly-elected Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. Should BJP fail to retain these seats, it will be sitting on a knife edge majority of 1. Not that a majority of two or three seats inspires confidence, either.
Expect restive NDA allies to get more assertive. Expect BJP leaders chafing under the dictatorial hold of the PM Narendra Modi-BJP President Amit Shah duo, to become more assertive.
Expect the Opposition to quickly learn the lesson that united, they can decimate the BJP.
The SP and BSP have shown the damage they can together do to BJP’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh, bagging seats held by such high profile BJP leaders. The BJP had won both seats by margins of over 3 lakh votes in 2014. If Mayawati and Akhilesh continue their alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, perhaps including the Congress, RLD and other smaller parties as well, the NDA could be reduced from its current tally of 71 seats, to less than 30 in 2019. It is going to be an uphill task for Modi and Shah to retain their present Lok Sabha seats, let alone increase their majority.
Samajwadi Party candidate Nagendra Singh Patel was elected to the Lok Sabha from Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, defeating his nearest BJP opponent by 59,613 votes, an Election Commission official said. As the vote count moved towards the final rounds at the time of writing, Samajwadi Party's Praveen Nishad had secured 3,34,463 votes in Gorakhpur, with the BJP's Upendra Dutt Shukla at the second spot with 3,08,593 votes. One official said Nishad had won.
Samajwadi National President Akhilesh Yadav thanked BSP chief Mayawati after the results. Meanwhile, a contrite-sounding and downcast Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, under whose watch the BJP lost his home seat of Gorakhpur after 29 years, said the result was unexpected. He blamed "overconfidence" for BJP's loss, saying "We couldn't understand the alliance between SP and BSP.”
Unsurprisingly, Congress candidates in both seats lost their deposit. Congress neither chose strong candidates in both seats, nor put much effort into the campaign. The Congress party, especially after hosting both BSP and SP leaders besides 17 other Opposition parties for dinner at Sonia Gandhi’s Delhi residence on Tuesday night, is unlikely to be unhappy with the day’s results.
Meanwhile in Bihar, in a direct fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Grand Alliance of the RJD-Congress-HAM, the Rashtriya Janata Dal retained the Jahanabad Assembly seat and Araria Lok Sabha seat. The BJP retained the Bhabhua Assembly seat, officials on Wednesday said. RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated BJP’s Pradeep Kumar Singh by 57,358 votes in the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll. Alam’s father Taslimuddin, whose death necessitated the bypoll, had won the seat with a margin of nearly 1.5 lakh votes in 2014. RJD’s Suday Yadav defeated Janata Dal (United) candidate Abhiram Sharma by 35,036 votes in Jahanabad. In Bhabua, BJP candidate Rinki Pandey defeated Sambhu Patel of the Congress by about 15,000 votes. RJD leaders and workers celebrated across the state, distributing sweets and bursting fire crackers.
The Bihar bypolls were the first electoral contest after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dissolved the RJD-JDU-Congress mahagathbandhan government, only to reform the government in partnership with the BJP. After the results, the BJP Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi restricted himself to a subdued congratulations to the winning candidates. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav called for a Grand Alliance at the national level to defeat the BJP.
Opposition leaders including West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, former J&K CM Omar Abdullah, Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and several Congress leaders congratulated RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
The by-elections were held on March 11.
With IANS inputs.
This article was updated at 6.45 pm on March 14 to correct the photo credit