Electorally speaking, Thursday was a day of hard knocks for the BJP — with poor results in to four Lok Sabha seats, including Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, where its stakes were high after the defeats in parliamentary bypolls in Phulpur and CM Yogi Adityanath’s pocket borough of Gorakhpur not long ago, and 11 Assembly seats across seven states.
The ruling party only retained a Uttarakhand Assembly seat, after a fight put up by the Congress — out of the 11 where byelections were held on May 28, and just one Parliament seat in Maharashtra, defeating ally Shiv Sena. In Nagaland, though, its ally NDPP retained the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat.
Its defeats were pronounced in UP, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, states where the party is in power, and also in Bihar, where its ally Janata Dal (United) of chief minister Nitish Kumar was trounced by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD.
After a near-defeat in the Gujarat Assembly polls late last year, the BJP’s ambition to maintain a winning streak was thwarted by the Congress in byelections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and subsequently by the SP and BSP joining forces in UP.
The Kairana (Parliament) and Noorpur (Assembly) byelection results on Thursday suggest that the saffron party is likely to be up against the wall if its opponents can credibly join forces in the next Lok Sabha election in UP, the state which was principally responsible for the BJP’s parliamentary majority.
The striking failure to perform respectably in these byelections has come on the heels of the BJP’s failed bid to climb into power in Karnataka earlier this month, and cannot be a good augury as the saffron party prepares for Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year.
Now, the question is apt to be asked: What’s left of the so-called Narendra Modi magic? And is BJP president Amit Shah — billed as the master organiser and manipulator within the party and by friendly sections of the media — not losing his touch as popular discontent against the NDA government increases?
The UP results, from Kairana and Noorpur on Thursday, and Phulpur and Gorakhpur earlier, confirm that CM Yogi Adityanath, the icon of Hindu communalists, is becoming a liability.
In winning its lone Parliament seat on Thursday, the BJP defeated the Shiv Sena, a disgruntled ally at the Centre and in Maharashtra. It remains to be seen if the Sena now pulls out of the Maharashtra alliance, placing the BJP-led government under pressure.
In Bihar too, CM Nitish Kumar, whose party has lost every byelection to the RJD after he dishonoured the Bihar mandate and ditched the latter to sail with the BJP, and was comprehensively beaten again on Thursday, is likely to feel the heat, leading to political uncertainty in the state. In the Meghalaya Assembly, after winning a byelection on Thursday, the Congress has become the largest single party. How this plays out is yet to be seen.
All in all, a period of political excitement, and some turbulence, lies ahead.