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Return of the Alliance?

Return of the Alliance?
The by-poll results for the four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats clearly indicate that the political environment in the country is in for a change. BJP has managed to win the Palghar (Maharashtra) Lok Sabha and Tharali (Uttarakhand) Assembly seats. In the crucial Kairana (Uttar Pradesh) Lok Sabha seat, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hasan defeated her nearest rival BJP's Mriganka Singh by over 55,000 votes. Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Naimul Hasan won the Noorpur (Uttar Pradesh) Assembly seat by defeating Avani Singh of BJP. After the Karnataka polls where BJP fell short of winning the majority by eight seats, the by-election in the four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly constituencies provided the perfect platform to gauge the popularity of the ruling party. But, the by-poll results show that it is the opposition parties that have been able to keep their turf intact. The Congress has won Shahkot (Punjab) and Ampati (Meghalaya) Assembly seats beside the RK Puram Assembly seat for which the elections were held on May 28 along with the by-polls. In West Bengal, the Maheshtala Assembly seat has gone to Trinamool Congress, while In Jharkhand, Gomia and Silli Assembly seats have been won by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). Bihar's Jokihat Assembly seat has gone to Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal. In Kerala, CPM has won the Chengannur Assembly seat. The by-poll results clearly suggest that the regional parties have been able to keep their home turfs safe while displaying impressive and credible performances.
The opposition's experiment to put up a united fight against BJP was seen in Kairana, where RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan was supported by SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress. This was the second time after the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-election in March this year that BSP's Mayawati decided to go along with SP. The emphatic win for Hasan indicates that the opposition's strategy has worked exceedingly well. The coming together of SP and BSP has ensured that the opposition votes are not divided and the collective votes received due to the support of the two parties are enough to score a victory over BJP candidates. The by-poll results also highlight the continued political sway of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar and Hemant Soren in Jharkhand. Though Shiv Sena was defeated in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, where BJP candidate Gavit Rajendra Dhedya won, NCP has won the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha seat, underscoring its influence in Maharashtra. After the May 28 by-elections, Assembly elections are due in three large BJP-ruled states, scheduled later this year. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, there are only two major political parties – BJP and Congress. Recent by-polls here have seen Congress candidates winning, leading to the speculation that Congress may stage a comeback in these two crucial states. After the by-poll results, the opposition parties have some reason to be more optimistic about the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the country. The by-poll results also indicate that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre may face an anti-incumbency factor in the 2019 elections. The grand alliance that has been struck in Kairana may not be easy to replicate across all the Lok Sabha seats; it, however, presents a template on which the opposition can base its strategy. For BJP, which won a majority on its own in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the prime campaigner. Along with party president Amit Shah, Modi has addressed most of the election rallies. Though Modi still remains the most popular political leader, it is BJP's inability to forge alliances with regional parties that is a worrying sign for the party. In Uttar Pradesh, from where it won 74 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, BJP candidates have been repeatedly defeated by the SP-BSP alliance in the recent by-elections. BJP had won the last Assembly election in the state in 2017 with an overwhelming three-quarter majority. But, after BJP's splendid victory, the opposition parties have realised that it was due to the division of opposition votes that BJP could so comfortable secure victory in as many seats. Now, the opposition parties, especially the SP and BSP, are experimenting with a one-to-one fight between a common opposition candidate and BJP candidate. The experiment has so far borne positive results to the opposition but replicating this beyond UP is going to be a tough call. Except for UP, the opposition unity does not seem to be a major factor in the other states.
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