Millennium Post

Mere aberration, hardly A trend

After a very impressive electoral performance in the Lok Sabha elections why the BJP has lost in three consecutive by-elections for the assemblies of  Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh? Many questions are floating after these results. Why the party’s performance has not been as remarkable on 16 September as it was on 16 May? Why BJP is losing ground in states where the party won four months ago?

BJP has won only 12 seats out of 32 seats it contested in the by-polls so far. In May, the party during the Lok Sabha polls had led on 26 of these segments.   The assembly by-poll results in Uttar Pradesh have given the Samajwadi Party ample reason to celebrate as it has won eight of the 11 seats, with the BJP only managing to hold on to three, whereas BJP and its allies had won all 11 assembly segments in the Lok Sabha elections as well as during the assembly election of 2012. The BJP surrendered seven of its 10 seats while its ally Apna Dal conceded Rohaniya, part of Narendra Modi’s Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency.

All seats were vacated due to the sitting MLAs being elected to the Lok Sabha. The results come close on the heels of the party’s performance in the assembly by-polls in Bihar, Uttarakhand,?
Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh during  the last two months. Questions are bound to arise why BJP has been losing ground in these states?  As the BJP struggles  to come to terms with its performance, coming a mere four months after its resounding win  in the Lok Sabha polls, some political analysts and opposition parties are calling the verdict a rejection of communal politics in general, and the politics of love jihad in particular.

 Love Jihad may be a major factor for losing ground in Uttar Pradesh but there are indications that BSP is the main reason for Samajwadi Party’s victory in the state. The SP was helped by the fact that the BSP decided not to contest the by-polls. By not contesting, Mayawati effectively consolidated the anti-BJP vote behind the Samajwadi Party, a situation that is unlikely to repeat itself in the future.
Samajwadi Party must smile but should not laugh about its performance in these by-elections. If BSP would have been in the fray, situation might have been totally different. Muslim voters consolidated in favour of Samajwadi Party to defeat communal forces. They ensured no split in the votes as the Congress was nowhere in the contest in UP. There was only one reserve constituency in UP which went to polls in these elections.  Nobody knows whom the Dalits voted for? It is possible that the Dalits may not have voted for Mulayam Singh but it is also possible that given the low voter turnout, they may not have voted at all.

Another factor for Samajwadi’s victory was the issue of love jihad, which  the  father and son duo of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav handled very carefully and tactically. They let the BJP raise the issue but their party did not attack the saffron party as done previously on communal issues during the Lok  Sabha election. They also kept senior minister Mohammad Azam Khan out of campaigning for the party. This move yielded results. The division of voters along  communal lines was avoided.

Third factor is that the SP took a calculated risk by not putting up many Muslim candidates. It fielded only one in Thakurdwara near Moradabad, who won. The SP avoided making any direct comments on Prime minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders except Gorakhpur MP Adityanath. This contained the anti-BJP rhetoric from spreading far.

Narendra Modi as well as important leaders of BJP did not campaign anywhere in Uttar Pradesh as well as in other states. This election was not made into a prestige issue by the BJP. At the same time this election was a do or die situation for Mulayam Singh and his family.  Party deployed state ministers in all poll-bound constituencies and districts. Their arrival and presence, with the aura of power convinced the voters that their immediate concern was with the government in the state. The major reversal of election strategy by Samajwadi Party proved to be productive. While during the Lok Sabha campaign the BJP was  talking development and the SP was concerned about minority  welfare, this time round the SP was talking development and the BJP was more concerned with theocratic issues like love jihad.

Uttar Pradesh government was providing 24 hours electricity in poll bound seats. Top leaders of BJP did not take much interest in the by-elections. Factionalism, wrong ticket distribution and fighting within the party hampered the result. Some leaders and MPs did not campaign because their relatives had not been given the ticket. The move by the Prime minister and the party president of over centralising, gave the cadres the message, that they could win the election easily without any extra effort. This attitude  alienated state based prominent leaders who remained indifferent.

Controversy around Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son made the former UP chief minister turn smug. Rajnath Singh and another  former UP CM Kalyan Singh did not have any role in deciding the candidates. The PM may have declared Amit Shah as the man of the match but it is apparent to everybody that even the man of the match cannot do much without a good captain. After the Lok Sabha  elections the captain has  already been replaced by the man of match.

Another important factor was the slogan of   'achhe din', which harvested gold in Lok Sabha polls but is now proving to be counter-productive. BJP not only lost in Uttar Pradesh but was completely routed in Rajasthan where Vasundhara Raje, had led the party to a thumping victory in the assembly and the Lok Sabha elections. Congress won three  out of 4 seats in the state. Some political analysts and opposition parties are saying that Modi is losing ground in the country and the Modi magic no longer works   for the party. One must grant the party that in by-polls,  local factors overshadow national factors.

In India by-election results are not an indicator of anti-incumbency factor of centre and state. By-election is fought on local issues, local leaders, local arithmetic-chemistry, regional leaders and regional factors. The by-election happens due to three reasons, vacancy due to the resignation of sitting member, vacancy due to death of a sitting member and vacancy due the disqualification of a member.

Important leaders may not campaign but regional leaders focus too much. A study  by  a CSDS team of by-election results since 1967  to 2012  elections analysing  1100 by-elections for assembly  seats and 213 by-election for parliamentary seats has found out that the incumbent party in the state is more likely to win these seats than incumbent party at the centre. Analysis says that when incumbent parties in the state and at the centre are different, the incumbent party in the state is twice as likely to win a by-poll seat but when the incumbent party in the state and Centre is the same, the party is more likely  to win the by-election seat than its competitor.

Perhaps Rajasthan is  the only state where the BJP lost elections, bucking this theory. Political pundits want to see the same kind of wave in by-elections which was  generated by Modi during the Lok Sabha elections but waves and tide come and go and it’s very difficult to measure them with the same yardstick. Congress won the 1984 elections, by a thumping majority after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, it never repeated that performance in the last 30 years. BJP-JD(U) was badly routed in the by-elections before the 2010 polls but finally  the BJP-JD(U) broke all records in final assembly election.

AAP made history in Delhi assembly elections but vanished within 5 months in the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi. Before the 2004 Lok  Sabha elections, BJP performed very well in three state namely Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatishgarh but what  happened in 2004 Lok Sabha elections? So it is very difficult to correlate by-elections with Assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections.

 Political pundits also correlated local elections with state assembly elections in Gujarat. Election and results are very complex issues in our country due to the diversity of castes, religion, region and languages. In this field everybody are experts but nobody is perfects. Obviously these results are a wake up call for Modi and BJP. They must ask themselves as to why the party has been continuously losing ground or they may suffer in Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections also. The  Party already has decided to contest alone in Haryana while the tussle continues with Shiv Sena for seat sharing and the CM’s post in Maharashtra.  The relationship has been left bitter.

The author is an election analyst

Next Story
Share it