New Delhi: Results of the assembly by-poll elections held across seven seats in six states last week went in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), prima facie, with the party winning four of the seats, while it had previously held only three of these.
According to the results announced Sunday, the BJP retained the seats of Gopalganj in Bihar, Gola Gokarannath in Uttar Pradesh and Dhamnagar in Odisha. In Munogide in Telangana and Adampur in Haryana, the BJP had fielded sitting legislators who had resigned from their previous party to join the BJP. While it won the Adampur seat, it lost Munogide to rival Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
In Maharashtra, in the first elections since a rebel Shiv Sena faction led by now Chief Minister Eknath Shinde joined hands with the BJP in the state to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition of the Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, the BJP pulled out of the election in the last minute.
In also the first polls in Bihar since the Janata Dal (United) under Nitish Kumar left the NDA alliance earlier this year, to join hand with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), both the BJP and the JD(U)-RJD alliance had to settle for a draw.
While the RJD retained the Mokama assembly seat, Gopalganj went to the BJP. The RJD lost the Gopalganj seat by a mere 1,794 votes. The seat has been with the BJP since 2005, but RJD candidate Mohan Prasad Gupta gave a tough fight to the BJP’s Kusum Devi, despite former member of Parliament Sadhu Yadav’s wife and Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Indira Yadav and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) eating into the RJD’s core vote bank among Yadavs and Muslims. But for the BSP and the AIMIM, the RJD would have likely defeated the BJP.
While Indira Yadav received 8,853 of 168396 votes polled, AIMIM candidate Abdul Islam managed to get 12,212 votes, in a fiercely contested battle between the RJD and the BJP.
The BJP had fielded Kusum Devi, wife of deceased BJP legislator Subash Singh for the Gopalganj by-polls, but the victory margin came down from 2020, when Subash Singh had won the seat for the BJP with a margin of more than 36,000 votes over his nearest rival of the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav.
In Mokama, RJD candidate Neelam Devi defeated BJP’s Sonam Devi. The BJP leadership had fielded Sonam Devi a day after her husband and strongman Lalan Singh joined the party. The BJP also had roped in another bahubali, Surajbhan Singh, as well as Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) to campaign for its candidate Sonam Devi. This is the first time that the BJP had contested in Mokarma, a seat it usually left for its allies.
Though Neelam Devi retained the seat for the RJD, the winning margin dipped to 16,741 votes against 35,757 when her husband, Anant Singh, had won it for the party in 2020, defeating his nearest rival, JD(U)’s Rajeev Lochan Narayan Singh. The seat has been won repeatedly by Anant Singh, both as a JD(U) and an RJD candidate. While he had won Mokama as a JD(U) candidate in 2005 and 2010, as an Independent in 2015, and under the RJD banner in 2020. The Mokama seat fell vacant after Anant Singh, the sitting MLA from RJD, was disqualified owing to a conviction in a criminal case earlier this year.
The BJP was quick to use the by-poll results to target Nitish Kumar, rather than the RJD which contested the polls in the name of the RJD-JD(U) Grand Alliance.
“I would thank the people for sending a strong message to the Grand Alliance that they have been rejected. We got the highest votes in Mokama despite contesting there after 27 years. In the future, our performance will be better,” BJP state president Sanjay Jaiswal told ThePrint.
The Bihar by-polls were being observed keenly by both the BJP and the RJD-JD(U) as it precedes the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It has assumed even greater importance for the BJP as this would be the first time that it will be contesting the Lok Sabha elections since the JD(U) ended ties and it was looking at these elections as a “testing ground”.
Union ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have been touring the state to assess the party’s preparation for the Lok Sabha elections.
According to Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), however, the by-poll results should not be viewed as an indication of the 2024 Lok Sabha election results or even the Bihar assembly elections, scheduled to be held in 2025.
“I don’t draw any conclusion for 2024 as far as these elections are concerned whether it is Bihar or Telangana. Though these elections do boost the morale of the respective parties. TRS is already in power so it would not have any impact in Telangana,” he said.
Kumar added: “Had BJP won, it would have boosted the morale of the BJP and would have helped a little, in say expansion. In Bihar, definitely some consolation prize for BJP because it is no longer in alliance with JD(U) and it will give some confidence to BJP workers that it can win a seat on its own. Though it doesn’t give any guarantee that it will win in future.”
The battle in Haryana, Telangana, Maharashtra & Odisha
In Haryana’s Adampur, BJP candidate Bhavya Bishnoi — grandson of former Haryana Congress Chief Minister Bhajan Lal — emerged victorious in the prestigious Adampur by-poll. The seat had been with Bhajan Lal’s family since 1968. This is the first time that the BJP has won the seat.
The by-poll was necessitated as Bhavya’s father and sitting Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi joined the BJP in August, after he was expelled from the Congress in June for cross-voting against the party candidate.
One of the things that worked for Bhavya was that the dominant Jat votes got split between the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), all of which had fielded Jat candidates. Bhavya defeated Congress veteran leader Jai Prakash by a margin of over 16,000 votes, bettering the vote share of the Bishnois on the Adampur seat.
While Bhavya won 67,492 votes, her father Kuldeep, had won 63,693 votes in the 2019 assembly elections. In 2014, Kuldeep had received 48,224 votes, as the Haryana Janhit Congress party candidate — a party his father Bhajan Lal had formed in 2007 after leaving the Congress.
In Telangana’s Munugode, the results came as a big relief for the TRS, especially after the BJP’s impressive show in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections earlier this year.
The BJP had won 48 of the GHMC’s 150 wards, against 55 won by the TRS, the ruling party in the state, and 44 won by the AIMIM.
The GMC loss had prompted the TRS to view the by-polls as a ‘prestige’ battle.
TRS candidate Koosukuntla Prabhakar Reddy got 97,006 votes, winning by a margin of over 10,000 votes over the BJP’s Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy, who received 86,697 votes. The Congress, which had been in power in the constituency, received only 23,906 votes.
The by-poll was necessitated after sitting MLA Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy quit the Congress and resigned from his post in August. Reddy then joined the BJP and contested the by-polls for the party.
While the Munugode win is being seen as a boost for the TRS party, BJP leaders are finding solace in the “tough fight” they put up.
“As far as this election is concerned, while by-polls were held for seven seats, we contested six and won four. Earlier we had three seats. In Bihar, for the first time we contested without the support of JD(U), and the fact that the entire JD(U)-RJD and other parties contested together despite that we have won Bihar. You can see the change clearly. We fought against the government in Bihar this time, while earlier we were part of the government when we contested. This is how Modi’s image is being carried throughout the country,” said P Laxman, Rajya Sabha MP and BJP’s parliamentary board member
He added: “In Telangana the Congress candidate lost his deposit. Overall it is only BJP which has won against all odds. In Telangana we had 12,000 votes (8%), and now we have got 87,000 votes (40% ). It is a clear signal that BJP is the only alternative in the state. Despite Rahul’s Bharat Jodi Yatra, they have not won in Telangana,” he added.
The Munugode results come at a time when the BJP is busy projecting itself as the primary opposition party in Telangana and has been targeting the Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)-led TRS government in the state over alleged misgovernance and corruption, among others.
The by-poll results were preceded by an intense clash between the two parties, also over an MLA poaching controversy.
In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) won its first election since the split in the Sena earlier this year, following which the rebel faction led by Eknath Shinde joined hands with the BJP. The BJP pulled out of the by-polls at the last minute in what is likely a calculative retreat in what could have been the first electoral battle of strength between the BJP and the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena. The fight for the Andheri East seat was held due to the untimely death of Sena MLA Ramesh Latke and his wife was fielded from the seat by Uddhav Thackeray.
In Odisha’s Dhamnagar, BJP retained the seat, after elections were necessitated following the death of MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi. Sethi’s son Suryabanshi Suraj, fighting on a BJP ticket, won the seat. BJP’s Suryabanshi Suraj got 80,351 votes, while BJD’s Abanti Das received 70,470 votes.
Sunday’s win will surely bolster the party’s confidence after the drubbing it received in the panchayat polls held earlier this year. Of the 852 zilla parishad zone polls, BJD had won 766 seats while the BJP won only 42, and the Congress 37.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)