Small Slips

Losing the Kairana Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh to the Rashtriya Lok Dal in a by-election cannot be pleasant for the Bharatiya Janata Party, no matter how brave a face its leaders put on it. The focus on Kairana among the by-elections to four Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats and one seat in a state election may seem a little skewed, but the emphasis has to be laid at the BJP's door. The party seems to revel in the memories of its glittering victory in the state in 2017. Ruling Uttar Pradesh was once believed to presage victory in the general elections, although the rise of regional parties changed that. But the BJP seemed to be assured of its return in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after sweeping UP. So losing Gorakhpur, the chief minister's former constituency, and Phulpur to its rivals in bypolls earlier this year gave it a bad shock. Winning Kairana would have allowed the BJP to overcome the embarrassment of these losses. It lost again. This time, unlike in Karnataka, the Opposition parties were together from the beginning. Although getting the minority community and Jat constituencies under the same umbrella was not easy, the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and intelligent campaigning led to the RLD victory. This is perhaps the most important message for the Opposition. It is in this way that the Samajwadi Party won the Noorpur assembly seat, backed by the Congress, the BSP and the Aam Aadmi Party.

  • Published 1.06.18
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Losing the Kairana Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh to the Rashtriya Lok Dal in a by-election cannot be pleasant for the Bharatiya Janata Party, no matter how brave a face its leaders put on it. The focus on Kairana among the by-elections to four Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats and one seat in a state election may seem a little skewed, but the emphasis has to be laid at the BJP's door. The party seems to revel in the memories of its glittering victory in the state in 2017. Ruling Uttar Pradesh was once believed to presage victory in the general elections, although the rise of regional parties changed that. But the BJP seemed to be assured of its return in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after sweeping UP. So losing Gorakhpur, the chief minister's former constituency, and Phulpur to its rivals in bypolls earlier this year gave it a bad shock. Winning Kairana would have allowed the BJP to overcome the embarrassment of these losses. It lost again. This time, unlike in Karnataka, the Opposition parties were together from the beginning. Although getting the minority community and Jat constituencies under the same umbrella was not easy, the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and intelligent campaigning led to the RLD victory. This is perhaps the most important message for the Opposition. It is in this way that the Samajwadi Party won the Noorpur assembly seat, backed by the Congress, the BSP and the Aam Aadmi Party.

The BJP has not done well in these by-elections, winning one Lok Sabha seat - its ally winning another - and one of the 10 assembly seats. Two Lok Sabha seats are not bad, given its achievement record in by-elections to Lok Sabha seats between April 2014 and March 2018: it won four out of 23. But voters' calculations change in different elections, depending on whether it is a bypoll for a single seat, or a state election or general elections. Should the Opposition consider the BJP's poor performance in bypolls a morale booster when in these four years the party has won in more than half of the 27 assembly elections that took place? Rather, it is unity that the Opposition must work for, to fight against the divisive policies and coercive tendencies of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine. The BJP dream of an Opposition- mukt country would then come to a poor end.

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