Spotlight on BJP state leaderships after Lok Sabha defeats in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan
It is also a wake-up call for the Uttar Pradesh unit that an SP-BSP alliance made for an invincible caste combination. Since the polls were not polarised, it further weakened BJP’s prospects.
BJP has lost all the five Lok Sabha bypolls (Alwar and Ajmer in Rajasthan, Gorakhpur and Phulpur in UP, and Araria in Bihar) held this year. The party has also lost assembly polls in Mandalgarh (Rajasthan), Kolaras and Mungaoli (MP) and Jehanabad (Bihar).
Modi and Shah, who have mainly been responsible for BJP’s poll victories in various polls since 2014, kept away from campaigning in any of the by-elections and left it to the BJP state leadership to handle the campaign.
Whether this was by design (as the two leaders were not sure of victory) or to test the state leadership, the blame for the huge losses cannot be pinned directly on Modi and Shah. By convention, the party in power in a state wins the by-elections. BJP has not only lost these Lok Sabha bypolls, but also been defeated by huge margins.
BJP leaders have blamed Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje for the losses in Alwar and Ajmer (as well as the assembly bypoll in Mandalgarh). The fissures in the Rajasthan unit of BJP, the strong anti-incumbency against the Raje government and the impressive campaign run by Congress were responsible for the outcome. The BJP top brass not encouraging strong leaders in states or not giving them a free-hand is said to be a big factor.
UP CM Yogi Adityanath and deputy CM KP Maurya cannot escape the blame for BJP’s defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, more so since the two seats were won by them respectively in 2014. Despite the defeat in Rajasthan, BJP’s UP unit took the polls lightly, as is clear from the low voter turnout and a lacklustre campaign.
The CM on Wednesday accepted that “overconfidence” was one of the reasons for the defeat.
It is also a wake-up call for the UP unit that an SP-BSP alliance made for an invincible caste combination. Since the polls were not polarised, it further weakened BJP’s prospects.
Adityanath ended up indicting his own government when he said after results that local factors had contributed to the outcome.
The results came on a day when the Modi government said in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha — incidentally posed by its new member, Naresh Agarwal — that the maximum number of communal riots in 2017 took place in UP. The number stood at 195.
Law and order has been a matter of concern in UP and now questions are also being raised about delivery of various welfare schemes. Lack of administrative experience of BJP ministers is also getting exposed.
The SP victory would come as a shot in the arm for the opposition which is working on joining hands to form an anti-BJP opposition in the next Lok Sabha election. By-elections are not a final word on which way the next general elections would go, but the slew of bypoll defeats in different states shows the party will have to fall back on Modi-Shah, who may also find the battle tough against a united opposition with a weak state leadership.