New Delhi: The ruling Congress party on Tuesday continued its impressive electoral run, winning 10 of 31 by-elections across seven states, while the main Opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left, continued to perform poorly.
The surprise result, however, was the performance of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh, with the Congress replacing the Samajwadi Party (SP) as its main challenger.
“Although it is very difficult to assess political behaviour from the by-election results, it indicates that the Congress and the BSP are trying to capture more people’s support. People are gathering under two banners. The Congress is trying to expand its base, while the BSP is trying to retain its (support),” said Badri Narayan, a UP-based political analyst.
Of the 11 contests, the SP could win only one.
With actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar winning the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat defeating Dimple Yadav, daughter-in-law of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, by an overwhelming margin of 85,343 votes, the Congress called it the “beginning” of people’s faith in the party in UP and said it will form the next government in the state.
The Congress also won the poll to the Lucknow (West) seat, a stronghold of the BJP, which had held it for over two decades.
Narayan agreed. “Mulayam was expected to consolidate the OBC (other backward classes) support base, but it has proved to be close to capitalists and power brokers. The Muslims seem to be returning to the Congress, the SP’s OBC vote bank got divided between the BSP and the Congress.”
The BJP could win only two seats in the by-elections—one each in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The by-elections were held in UP (11), West Bengal (10), Kerala (3) and two each in Assam, Himachal and Rajasthan, besides one in Chhattisgarh.
The Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, suffered yet another poll setback as the coalition managed to win only one out of 10 assembly seats in West Bengal.
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), a part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, won all the seven seats in which it contested, and its partner the Congress could win only one. Two seats went to independent candidates—one backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a regional party based in northern West Bengal, and the Forward Bloc, an ally of the CPM.
The CPM was also routed in Kerala, where the election were considered to be a referendum on the Congress-led UPA’s economic policies. The state’s ruling Left Democratic Front, led by the CPM, lost all the three assembly by-elections. In Kannur assembly constituency, considered to be a bastion of the CPM, its former MP, A.P. Abdullakutty, now with the Congress, defeated M.V. Jayarajan by at least 12,000 votes.
“They (Left) tried to convince the people that the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) free trade agreement was dangerous during this election campaign, which has been rejected,” said K.V. Thomas, senior Congress leader and Union minister of state for agriculture.
TMC leader Banerjee said the results were another indication that people in West Bengal wanted change.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said in a statement: “It is a mandate against the Left Front. We are examining why they voted against us.”
According to political analyst T.V.R. Shenoy, the by-election results suggest a rejection of flip-flops by voters. The CPM and the SP, “which supported the Congress government and later opposed it, have been rejected by the people. People do not accept quick changes. These two had sacrificed their political morality”.
Ajayan from Kochi, Romita Datta from Kolkata and PTI contributed to this story.