In the mini byelections ahead of the vastly significant presidential elections, where every single member of Parliament, and MLA and MLC, will count to the final result, the Bharatiya Janata Party, almost predictably, was defeated across the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, conceding in total a Lok Sabha MP and three MLAs to the non-BJP Opposition.
The BJP has generally fared poorly in bypolls, in contrast to its performances in the last eight years in state Assembly elections, where it has won in several new areas, and recently won all four states, and in the parliamentary elections, where it has done spectacularly twice in a row.
The reason is not far to seek, besides a plethora of local issues which cannot be ignored — the absence of the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah combined factor.
In West Bengal, where the twin defeats must have hurt the most for the saffron party, their own two leaders who defected to the Trinamul Congress, won. Cine-star and former Central minister and dissenting voice for almost all of the Modi tenure Shatrughan Sinha won from Asansol, by a huge margin of over three lakh votes. Carrying a more recent grudge for not being inducted into the Cabinet during a reshuffle-cum-expansion, singer Babul Supriyo took the Ballygunge seat and will possibly be rewarded with a ministerial position in the state. Significantly, he defeated the CPI(M) candidate, Saira Shah Halim, while the BJP was a poor third.
After its stinging defeat in West Bengal, the BJP has all but forsaken the state; and with more than four years of the term remaining, the voters understandably sailed with the ruling Trinamul.
The biggest defeat in a different sense, the only one in a state ruled by the NDA, was in Bihar, in Bochahan, where the Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate Amar Kumar Paswan won. Even if local sympathy factors were to be dismissed, the huge vote share of the RJD, nearly touching 50 per cent, must be scary for the BJP-JD(U), which needs a big win from here in the Lok Sabha elections two years hence.
The other two defeats must be bitter yet another reason — the BJP hates losing, but it hates losing to the Congress the most. In Chhattisgarh, which the BJP conceded to the Congress in the 2018 polls, months before the Lok Sabha polls, there seems to be no change in public mood for the incumbent Bhupesh Baghel government, clearly indicated by the loss of the BJP in Khairagarh.
In Maharashtra, where four parties have been in a slugfest for two decades, the combination of three parties against one gives the Aghadi a clear insurmountable edge. If the three parties, Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena, stay together till the next Lok Sabha elections, and the subsequent next Assembly polls, the BJP has a lot to worry about.
The Opposition can clearly see these bypoll results, together, as a national mood against the BJP and Modi government. Or only that; the BJP is like any normal party that can be defeated, minus the Modi-Shah factor. Can the Opposition extend its run when the duo takes up the fight — that is the question!