Bypolls: BJP Gains in the Heartland
AAP loses thriller in Punjab
The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the biggest gainer in bypolls to three parliamentary and seven assembly seats in different states with results declared on Sunday.
The BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) won six seats while the Congress, YSR Congress and Aam Aadmi Party picked up four. Voter turnout was in the forties per cent for the parliament contests in UP and Punjab.
With the BJP picking up Samajwadi safe seats in Rampur and Azamgarh and the SAD (Amritsar) wresting Sangrur from the AAP in Punjab, the results are a pointer to the state of the opposition parties in India, whether it is the Congress, the SP in its cradle of Uttar Pradesh, the Left in its former bastion of Tripura or AAP in its new stronghold of Punjab.
The results throw strong political signals as the country heads towards the 2024 parliament polls.
Of the three parliament seats, the BJP wrested Azamgarh and Rampur from the Samajwadi Party, while voters in Sangrur, Punjab threw up a surprise by electing SAD (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann, 77 and known for his radical outlook, by a less than one per cent margin.
All three seats were vacated by heavyweights – the SP top brass of Akhilesh Yadav and Azam Khan, and sitting Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann – to contest the recent assembly elections.
The polls to seven assembly seats in Tripura, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand meanwhile saw the BJP keep two and wrest a third in Tripura, the AAP and YSRCP retain one each in Delhi and Andhra, and the Congress keep Mandar in Jharkhand and wrest Agartala from the BJP in Tripura.
The BJP scored a big win in Uttar Pradesh, as Dinesh Lal Yadav 'Nirahua' defeated Dharmendra Yadav of the SP in Azamgarh by less than 1% of the vote. In Rampur, long the home turf of Azam Khan, Ghanshyam Lodhi, a newcomer to the Hindu supremacist party, defeated Asim Raza of the SP by 42,000 votes. Raza was reportedly the personal choice of Azam Khan for the election, and both seats were considered SP bastions till now.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the victories in Uttar Pradesh on Twitter. "The by-poll wins in Azamgarh and Rampur are historic. It indicates wide-scale acceptance and support for the double engine Governments at the Centre and in UP. Grateful to the people for their support. I appreciate the efforts of our Party Karyakartas" (cadre), he said.
Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav and his party attributed the BJP's victory to abuse of power and "ignoring the constitution and democracy". They accused the Election Commission of having "the eyesight of Dhritrashtra," a blind storybook king, and the BJP of "abducting the people's mandate."
The loss is a jolt to the Samajwadi Party that had posted a commendable performance in the recent assembly polls. Observers feel that the failure of the party leadership to maintain that tempo, and its non-reaction to people's issues like the state government's bulldozer demolitions targeting Muslims resulted in the loss.
The Sangrur result comes as a big loss to the AAP, which won a brute majority in the recent assembly polls, with the sitting chief minister having vacated it after two successive Lok Sabha victories – in fact Sangrur was the only seat won by the AAP in the 2019 general election. Observers say the loss can be attributed to the people rejecting the model of "proxy government" from Delhi, with too much interference by party national convener Arvind Kejriwal in the affairs of the state.
There are various views coming on Simranjit Singh Mann's victory. A large number of people are countering the narrative being set that the victory means support for radical or separatist politics. They say that if this was the case, SAD (Badal) candidate Kamaldeep Kaur would not have come fifth in the race. She is foster sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana, an assassin of former chief minister Beant Singh who is on death row, and through her candidature the Akalis had played up the issue of "Bandi Singhs," or Sikh prisoners who languish in jail despite having completed their sentences. Even Simranjit Mann had used the issue in his campaign.
And many feel it is Punjab's quest for an ideal political leadership that led to this result. Polling for the Sangrur election was a mere 45%, and here too the BJP candidate Kewal Dhillon, a Sikh face imported from the Congress, was rewarded with an impressive 10% of the vote.
After his victory Simranjit Singh Mann said, "I will work hard to ameliorate the sufferings of our farmers, farm-labour, traders and everyone in my constituency." He had lost the recent assembly polls in Punjab from the Amargarh seat, also in Sangrur.
Accepting the people's verdict Bhagwant Mann came out saying he was working honestly for the development and prosperity of Punjab and would continue to do so.
Tripura meanwhile witnessed the complete decimation of the Left that was unseated by the BJP in 2018 after a two and a half decade stint. The same was the fate of the Trinamool Congress candidates.
The BJP won three of four seats with the Congress managing to wrest one from the party in power. Incumbent chief minister Manik Saha was in the fray and won from Bordowali town. A Rajya Sabha member, he was anointed to the post after the sudden departure of Biplab Deb last month.
Observers say the BJP's strategy of overcoming anti-incumbency in states by changing the top leadership as in Gujarat and Uttarakhand earlier continues to work. Its candidates Malina Debnath and Swapna Das Paul registered victories on the Jubarajnagar and Surna seats while the lone victory for the Congress came in Agartala through former minister Sudip Roy Barman.
In Andhra Pradesh, the YSRC retained Atmakur with its candidate Mekapati Vikram Reddy getting elected with 74% of the vote while the BJP runner-up lost his deposit.
Congress candidate Shipi Neha Tirkey won the Mandar seat in Jharkhand. The bypoll had followed the disqualification of her father Bandhu Tirkey as an MLA after being convicted in a corruption case.
AAP retained the Rajinder Nagar constituency in New Delhi through its candidate Durgesh Pathak. The seat had fallen vacant after the sitting MLA Raghav Chadha was sent by his party to the Rajya Sabha.