For BJP, road to 2019 will not be easy
The message from the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar byelections is clear for the party in power— the road to 2019 will be much more difficult to negotiate than 2014. The party’s helmsmen will also have to introspect on this question: Do their chaal and charitra (functioning and character) need to change? Could it be that the morale of party workers and newfound supporters have been dented?
Was this why the voting percentage in both the constituencies in Uttar Pradesh was much less than expected? The voting percentage in Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur constituency was 43% compared to 54.67% in 2014. Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had helped the party win for the first time at Phulpur in 2014. At that time, 50.2% voters had turned out. The number shrank to 37.39% this time. The slim margin of defeat in Gorakhpur shows that had the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters been more enthusiastic, the result could have been reversed.
You may want to join the chorus that emerges after every election result which says that the ministers don’t share a good rapport with each other. That the chief minister is honest but the government machinery and his ministers are not so. No wonder bureaucrats have become arrogant and party workers feel ignored. While discussing these factors, remember that in these over-enthusiastic times, baseless allegations and half-truths can pass off as facts.
The election results have proved that Mayawati still possesses the capacity to transfer her vote bank anywhere she wants. Naturally, the Samajwadi Party’s (SP’s) victory with her helps raise this question: Will Akhilesh Yadav provide complete support to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections? If Akhilesh Yadav manages to help the BSP candidate emerge victorious, it is certain that their mutual trust will be strengthened. So, the Kairana byelection could become the first test for this political partnership.
The BJP may face a number of difficulties after losing three parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. To begin with, the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah team will have to plug organizational loopholes in these two states. The party’s more extreme associates may harden their stance. Along with this, the centre will have to prepare a strong report card. The opposition has been alleging that the promises made before the last general elections have not been fulfilled. Such news can spread like wildfire.
The results have also reduced the BJP’s strength in the Lok Sabha. In 2014, the party won 282 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha to form a government on its own. Now this number has reduced to 273. So the BJP’s majority hinges on just one MP. The other partners of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will want to capitalize on this. It will also affect seat distribution, which can have an impact on the results of the 2019 elections. Clearly, the BJP will put all its energy behind winning the assembly polls in Karnataka and the three byelections to the Lok Sabha. There are signs that indicate this. After the loss in Uttar Pradesh, all senior leaders including Yogi Adityanath conceded with humility that they had become victims of overconfidence. If the BJP leaders take a lesson from this, there is scope for course correction because BJP still boasts the best election machinery among political parties.
It is important because even as the BJP has conquered many new states in the last few years, its popularity has diminished in the states where it has been ruling. In Gujarat, despite a 22-year-old reign, it had to sweat to win the last assembly elections. Subsequently, the saffron party had to face defeat in the bypolls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. By winning the recent municipal polls in 21 districts of Rajasthan, the Congress has ushered in winds of change. The UP byelection results have also created a few challenges for the Congress. The SP and the BSP didn’t take the Congress party into confidence while forging a coalition. The party fielded candidates to defend its ego but the candidates couldn’t cross the 20,000 mark. Regional parties, who were their partners at one point, may ask the Congress to support them. Clearly, these byelection results are a sign of the rise of those parties who practise regional politics.
The change in circumstances has made the three Lok Sabha byelections and the assembly elections in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan even more interesting. Let us see whom the electorate anoints as the hero and how many as court jesters.
Shashi Shekhar is editor in chief, Hindustan.
His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin