NEW DELHI: The BJP was Tuesday dealt a severe blow in its strongholds in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat when it lost 13 of the 23 seats held by it there while the Congress put up a surprise showing in two of these states in the assembly by-elections.
Considered yet another test of popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tuesday’s reverses come on top of the BJP’s disappointing performance in the assembly by-elections in Bihar, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in the last two months.
Out of the 32 assembly seats across nine states for which counting of votes was taken up on Tuesday, BJP won 12, Congress seven and Samajwadi Party eight while TDP, Trinamool Congress, AIUDF and CPI(M) bagged one each. One seat in Sikkim was won by an Independent. Counting in Antagarh in Chhattisgarh, held by BJP, will be taken up on September 20.
It was Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP was on a high after a near-total sweep of the 80 Lok Sabha seats, that delivered a humiliating blow to the saffron party as it lost seven of the 10 seats held by it as well as one belonging to its ally Apna Dal to the ruling Samajwadi Party.
BSP’s absence in the by-elections had made it a virtual straight fight between BJP and SP, which has bounced back after the drubbing in Lok Sabha polls. The saffron party’s campaign on issues like ‘Love Jihad’ also apparently did not bring them any electoral gains.
However, the Congress drew a blank in the 11 seats that went to polls in Uttar Pradesh reflecting the ground situation that it has a long way to cover before it can make inroads. But the Congress put up an impressive showing in Rajasthan where it wrested three of the four seats from BJP, which had come to power in the state last year with a landslide three-fourth majority. The Congress also wrested three of the nine seats from the BJP in Gujarat, where the elections were held for the first time in 12 years without Narendra Modi.
All the seats in Uttar Pradesh (11), Gujarat (9) and Rajasthan (4) were held by BJP and the bypolls were necessitated after the MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha.
Gloating over BJP’s reverses, the Congress and Samajwadi Party called it as a defeat of the communal forces. They said people had rejected the Narendra Modi government and BJP’s “politics of polarization.”
The BJP, which is hoping to do well in the coming assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, conceded that the bypoll results were not up to expectations and said that people had voted on local issues.
The only solace for BJP on an otherwise dismal day was its entry in West Bengal Assembly. BJP candidate Shamik Bhattacharya won the Basirhat Dakshin seat in North 24 Parganas district by a margin of 1,586 votes against its nearest Trinamool Congress rival and former Indian soccer captain Dipendu Biswas. The seat was earlier held by CPI(M). BJP retained the Vadodara Lok Sabha seat, vacated by Prime Minister Modi, albeit with a reduced margin. Ranjanben Bhatt thumped her Congress rival Narendra Rawat by over 3.29 lakh votes. Modi had won the seat by 5.7 lakh votes.
In the other two Lok Sabha by-elections, Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh, the stronghold of ruling SP, Tej Pratap Singh, the grand nephew of Mulayam Singh Yadav, defeated BJP’s Prem Singh Skahkya by a margin of more than 3.21 lakh votes. Mulayam had vacated the seat after he chose to retain Azamgarh. In Medak Lok Sabha constituency in Telangana, the ruling TRS retained the seat vacated by party chief K Chandrasekhar Rao. Its candidate K Prabhakar Reddy won by 3,61,277 votes.
In Uttar Pradesh, out of 11 assembly seats, Samajwadi Party won eight seats and BJP three. In Gujarat, BJP won six seats and Congress three, while in Rajasthan Congress bagged three and BJP one. In Andhra Pradesh, ruling TDP retained the Nandigama seat.
In West Bengal, Trinamool and BJP won one seat each. The BJP also made other advances in eastern region wresting Silchar constituency in Assam from the Congress. The All India United Democratic Front and the ruling Congress retained Jamunamukh and Lakhipur seats respectively in the state.
CPI-M won the Manu (ST) assembly constituency in Tripura while Independent candidate R N Chamling, brother of Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, won Rangang-Yangang assembly seat in Sikkim by 708 votes defeating his nearest Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) nominee.
Last month, the saffron party suffered a 4-6 defeat at the hands of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance in Bihar and yielded two strongholds to Congress in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh in the by-elections. In July, it lost all the three assembly seats in Uttarakhand to Congress in the by-elections.