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BJP mum on bypoll defeat

New Delhi, July 26: Congress: 3, BJP: 0

The BJP has lost all three seats that voted in by-elections in Uttarakhand to the ruling Congress.

Two of these Assembly seats — Doiwala and Someshwar — had been vacated by the BJP’s sitting MLAs after they were elected to the Lok Sabha. The third was held by a Congress legislator who vacated his seat for chief minister Harish Rawat.

One of the former MLAs whose seat went to the Congress was Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, briefly chief minister during BJP rule.

Rawat won from Dharchula constituency, although he was confined to a hospital in Delhi after being injured in an accident.

Far from being demoralised after forfeiting the five parliamentary seats to the BJP in the May 2014 elections, the Congress got its act together to fight the first set of bypolls to be held after the BJP’s massive win in the Lok Sabha.

Although there was no official word, a BJP minister’s explanation was: “Bypolls are generally won by the ruling party or coalition, which is the Congress in the case of Uttarakhand.”

With 35 MLAs, the Congress is finally placed comfortably in the 70-member House in the hill state. The results have put paid to the speculation that the BJP was about to rock the boat in Uttarakhand, spirit away “dispirited” Congress MLAs and cobble a majority.

“Nobody wished to destabilise the incumbent dispensation,” the BJP minister said. “This is why the voters ensured the Congress won all the seats.”

However, others didn’t give such a pat reasoning. A party official admitted that the familiar fault-lines, running through the factions led by local leaders, had resurfaced to haunt the BJP. “(Narendra) Modi’s projection had cemented the internal divisions (in the Lok Sabha polls). How else can one justify the loss of Pokhriyal’s seat?” the official asked.

Asked if the outcome reflected the people’s views on the two-month-old Modi government, the official stressed it did not. “Some commentators have put a spin and claimed that people are already disillusioned with the ‘sarkar’. If that was the case, how come the BJP wrested the Junagadh Municipal Corporation from the Congress this week itself?” he asked.

The Junagadh municipality in Gujarat was the last Congress frontier the BJP needed to breach to establish its hold over the state’s civic bodies. In the elections on July 22, the BJP won 41 of the 50 seats.

By-elections are shortly due in several seats in Bihar and Karnataka. In Bihar the Janata Dal (United) has forged an alliance with the RJD and possibly the Congress to take on the BJP. The development, a BJP source conceded, could make its job “far tougher” than in the Lok Sabha election.