Bypoll ache stays for BJP, cheer for allies

The BJP failed again to build on the general election victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, losing the latest round of Assembly bypolls whose results were declared today.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 16.04.15
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Narayan Rane in Mumbai on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, April 15: The BJP failed again to build on the general election victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, losing the latest round of Assembly bypolls whose results were declared today.

The outcome contrasted with that of allies Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal, which came up trumps in Maharashtra and Punjab.

In Maharashtra, the second consecutive defeat in a year of Sena-turned-Congress leader Narayan Rane brought a smirk on his former party's face. The Sena had staked its prestige in the battle against the former chief minister in Mumbai's Bandra (East) seat, keeping the BJP out of the campaign.

The Akali Dal, supposedly up against "massive" anti-incumbency in Punjab, wrested Dhuri from the Congress.

But it was the heartland blow that jolted the BJP. It dashed hopes of a rebound from the bypolls last May and September - after the Narendra Modi government took charge - when the party lost all three seats in Uttarakhand and seven of the 11 it held in Uttar Pradesh.

A BJP official blamed the latest losses - a seat each in the two northern states - on a "general trend" in bypolls, contending that the ruling party usually had an advantage.

In Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Samajwadi Party won the Charkhari bypoll today. The seat was earlier bagged by the BJP's Uma Bharti in the 2012 state elections before she vacated it following her election as an MP last year.

The Samajwadi had snatched the seat in the September bypolls last year. Later, the victor was disqualified after conviction in a criminal case, necessitating a fresh bypoll in less than a year.

A central BJP leader termed today's result another "wake-up call". "It's a wake-up call yet again. We need to pay more attention to our grassroot work in Uttar Pradesh. The state unit seems to have fallen asleep."

Neighbouring Uttarakhand offered no solace. After bagging all five Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJP was relegated to second spot in the bypoll to the Bhagwanpur seat where the widow of a deceased Congress minister, Surendra Rakesh, won by over 36,000 votes.

The serial wins not only fetched the Congress an absolute majority, they also strengthened the position of chief minister Harish Rawat, who had personally campaigned in Bhagwanpur.

If Rawat's rankings in the scale of the Congress's regional leaders shot up, those of his Maharashtra colleague Rane plunged after his loss to a Sena rookie, Trupti Sawant, in Bandra (East) today.

Rane was long known as a Konkan strongman whose hold over the coastal region was considered strong even after he left the Thackerays and switched to the Congress.

The first sign of an upset was visible when his son Nilesh lost last year's Lok Sabha polls from family turf Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.

Rane was trounced from Kudal, his Assembly fief for six terms, in last October's Maharashtra polls that the BJP and the Sena swept.

According to some observers, Rane's identification this time with Konkan earned for him an "outsider" tag in the Mumbai contest.

Another seat in Maharashtra, Tasgaon, where bypolls were held was retained by Sharad Pawar's NCP. The poll was necessitated by party leader and former state home minister R.R. Patil's death this February.