Dealing a body blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, opposition parties on Thursday emerged victorious in 12 out of 15 bypolls while limiting the saffron party and its allies at just three and snatching the high-profile Kairana Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh with a united force.
Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo
With prestige at stake in every single bypoll in run-up to the 2019 general elections, the opposition leaders latched onto Thursday's results across 11 states to claim sliding popularity of the Narendra Modi-led government, even as the BJP asserted that the PM -- which it described as 'P' for performance and 'M' for mehnat (hard work) -- would decide the Lok Sabha polls next year.
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 similar appeared the result for Bhandara-Gondiya LS constituency in Maharashtra.
Lok Sabha bypolls
The BJP retained another LS 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.
In Nagaland, the fourth LS seat for which bypoll was held on Monday, went to BJP's ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party.
While the LS bypoll results were equally divided at 2-2 between the BJP-led alliance and the opposition parties, figures for the 11 assembly bypolls came as a big setback for the ruling party which could win just one (in Uttarakhand).
The Congress bagged four (in Meghalaya, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab) and others got six -- the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha two in Jharkhand; the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress one each in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, respectively.
The Congress also won one assembly seat in Maharashtra without contest after all other parties withdrew their candidates.
The party, which retained Rajarajeshwari 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 the Congress, the CPI-M, the JMM and the TMC 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 Janata Dal-United by a huge margin.
A buoyed Tejashwi Yadav of RJD said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who dumped the RJD and 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.
Aam Aadmi Party 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, Rashtriya Lok Dal's Tabassum Hasan, wining 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.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechuri said BJP's loss at its 'laboratory of communal and hate politics', Kairana, clearly showed that people did not accept the ruling party's politics but warned that the loss could push the Rashtraiy Swayamsevak Sangh-BJP to spread communal tensions to consolidate the 'Hindutva votebank'.
In Punjab, Congress' Hardev Singh Ladi wrested Shahkot from the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Trinamool's Dulal Das won Maheshtala bypoll in West Bengal, defeating BJP's Sujit Kumar Ghosh. The Left came third.
JMM retained Silli and Gomia seats in Jharkhand. In Gomia, JMM's Babita Devi defeated All Jharkhand Students Union nominee Lambodar Mahto, while the BJP came third.
In Silli, JMM's Seema Mahto defeated AJSU chief Sudesh Mahto.