Explained: By-polls results and their spillover effects

The common-man issue like rising fuel price, mismanagement of the Covid crisis had accounted for BJP’s lacklustre show in the by-polls.

Usually, by-polls have always favoured the ruling party unless there is some severe distrust in the ruling party. BJP in some states had to fight the same setback on Tuesday as the results of three Lok Sabha seats and 29 assembly seats across 14 states were announced.

Except for its stellar performance in Assam led by CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP dealt with complete rejection in West Bengal and Rajasthan, thwarting defeat in Himachal Pradesh, where elections are due next year. The saffron party also faced a humiliating defeat in Rajasthan. In Assam, the party gained more seats due to the lustrous leadership of Sarma, reducing its dependency on the allies.

Of the three Lok Sabha polls, both BJP and Congress had one seat each. Shiv Sena had won the Dadra and Nagar Haveli general assembly seat.   

Are BJP and Congress wins significant?

In the by-polls, Congress made scattered yet significant inroads. It had increased its one Lok Sabha seat to 53, which has boosted their confidence. They have managed to win one closely contested seat in Madhya Pradesh with a 45.5% vote share, 2% more than BJP.  Congress had won Raigaon in MP, a traditional BJP stronghold after 31 years. But it lost the reserved seat Jobat in MP.

Meanwhile, it had managed to clinch away one seat from BJP in Karnataka and won the prestigious seat of Deglur in Maharashtra by 42,000 votes. Former CM of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis had campaigned extensively to topple Congress in Deglur.  In Karnataka, the by-poll would set the mood for the upcoming assembly polls.

In Rajasthan, Congress won both Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar assembly constituencies with 18,725 and 20,606 vote margins, respectively. They have reduced BJP to fourth and third opposition parties. The most talked-about seat was the Mandi Lok Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh, which Congress won by 7,000 votes. This seat falls under the CM Jairam Thakur’s state assembly constituency. The saffron party had won that seat by over four lakh votes in the 2019 parliamentary election.

A similar situation was seen in Karnataka as Congress won Hangal constituency that happens to be in the chief minister home district in Haveri. Congress also managed to retain two assembly constituencies and jostled Jubbal Kothai from BJP in Himachal Pradesh. Overall, Congress had won one Lok Sabha seat and eight assembly seats. However, Congress has secured a lesser vote share than NOTA in Bengal.

BJP, on the other hand, had secured more than ten assembly seats, guided by the win of five assembly seats in Assam and one Lok Sabha seat in the by-polls. The party had managed to topple TRS in Telangana’s Huzurabad constituency. BJP had won the Dubakka by-poll last year against the head-on fight with the regional party in power.  It had managed to hold its influence in the northeast as Congress gradually lost its supporters to the new regional parties. In Karntaka, BJP had won Sindagi. BJP also retained the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh, keeping its original number afloat.  In Bengal, BJP was reduced to none in the constituencies, which were won by them six months ago.

The strong regional powers

BJP has always faltered in the presence of strong regional forces. We have witnessed the same situations in the by-polls as the voters have preferred strong regional parties over national parties. Following the trend, West Bengal by-polls saw the massive TMC win in all four assembly seats. Interestingly, CPM gained some of its lost vote share that further dented BJP’s vote bank. 

TMC has managed to win over 75% of votes across the constituencies as other parties have struggled to save their deposits, including BJP, who had emerged as the largest opposition party just six months ago. TMC had won by the highest vote margin of 1.64 lakh votes since independence in Dinhata, previously won by just 57 votes by the junior Union Home Minister Nisith Pramanik in the March 2021 elections.

Similarly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress won big in Andhra Pradesh as it defeated BJP by more than 90,000 votes. Shiv Sena winning in Dadra and Nagar Haveli was expected. The independent MP Mohan Delkar had committed suicide and blamed BJP leader and Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel, who was also governing the union territory of harassment. Shiv Sena had filed late Delkar’s wife, Kalaben Delkar in the by-poll. Taking the cue from the dissent against BJP, Mrs Delkar had won by a big margin. 

As expected, the farmer protests have let BJP down in Haryana. Abhay Chautala, who had quit over the farmers’ protest, had won the Ellenabad seat on INLD’s ticket. As mentioned above, the voters in the northeast have lent their support to the regional ruling alliance and parties. BJP happens to be a part of a regional ruling alliance.

The larger picture

BJP could gain three assembly seats, aided by its landslide victory in Assam, whereas Congress lost three seats, despite significant wins. The by-polls traditionally involved the fight between the candidates than the parties. Therefore it is difficult to assess the intensity of its impact in the upcoming state polls.

But BJP has to admit that they lost some of their strongholds due to their uninspiring show. Except in Telegana, the saffron party could not stand even a close chance to win in the presence of strong regional powers. Contrarily, Congress made impactful inroads in BJP ruled states of Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Though historically, by-polls never influenced the assembly polls at large. But this time, they do ring the warning bell for BJP. The common-man issue like rising fuel price, mismanagement of the Covid crisis, delay in vaccines had accounted for their lacklustre performance. If these issues are not taken care of, it will cost the party, in the long run, resulting in their probable downfall.

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