New Delhi: The Congress failed to win any of the four by-elections for which results were announced on Monday, suffering a blow ahead of crucial assembly elections next year.
Analysts said the results of one Lok Sabha and three assembly bypolls across four states—three of which are ruled by the Congress—are a shot in the arm for main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
BJP workers celebrate their party’s victory in the parliamentary by-election in Hisar and Khadakwasla assembly in Maharashtra. Photo: PTI
BJP-backed Kuldeep Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress defeated Indian National Lok Dal leader Ajay Singh Chautala by around 6,000 votes in the Hisar Lok Sabha bypoll, pushing the ruling Congress’s Jai Prakash to third place.
In Bihar, the ruling coalition of the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) retained the Daraunda assembly seat, while the opposition BJP-Shiv Sena combine of Maharashtra won the Khadakwasla assembly by-poll in Pune district. BJP candidate Bhimrao Tapkir defeated Congress ally Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Harshda Wanjale by more than 3,500 votes, even though the assembly segment is part of NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule’s Lok Sahba constituency of Baramati.
In Andhra Pradesh, where the Congress government has been facing flak for its indecision over the demand to create a separate Telangana state, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy defeated Srinivas Goud of the Congress by around 50,000 votes for the Banswada assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh.
“The public verdict should be an eye-opener to the Centre, and the statehood for Telangana should be granted without any delay,” Srinivas Reddy told the media.
The BJP said the bypoll results highlighted the decline of the Congress across the country. “The corrupt Congress has got a huge setback,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. “The verdict is against corruption and poor governance record of the Congress. This is a victory of the people and a wake-up call for the Congress.” But the Congress put up a brave face. “The party’s loss in election is always a sad thing and we shall have to analyse why we have lost the by-elections, what are the reasons,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
The results are a bad sign for the party ahead of assembly elections in a number of states next year, including the nation’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, where general secretary Rahul Gandhi—who is viewed as a future prime ministerial candidate—is leading the party’s campaign.
The by-polls followed a spate of corruption scandals involving leaders of the Congress and its allies, and a campaign for a tough anti-corruption law led by social activist Anna Hazare that gained nationwide support. Hazare’s aides campaigned against the Congress in Hisar.
The BJP, which has lost two successive parliamentary elections to the Congress in 2004 and 2009, has been keen to capitalize. BJP leader L.K. Advani has launched a rath yatra (essentially a political journey) to promote “clean politics and good governance” across the country.
“The by-poll results have become a ploy for the BJP to claim its return, especially in the background of L.K. Advani’s ongoing rath yatra, and a publicity for Anna Hazare,” said N. Bhaskar Rao, chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Bishnoi, son of former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal, whose death in June necessitated the Hisar by-election, denied his victory was thanks to Hazare. “Team Anna has not been a factor here,” he said.
The results of two other by-elections, in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli (West) and Puducherry’s Indira Nagar constituencies Assembly seats, will be announced on 20 October, after the ongoing civil polls in Tamil Nadu are over.
Mint’s Ruhi Tewari and Anuja in Delhi, Markarand Gadgil in Mumbai, Viswanath Pilla in Hyderabad, and PTI contributed to this story.