The Bharatiya Janata Party celebrated its victories in the Assembly by-elections in different States on Monday, hoping that a new trend would set in and bring it some cheer after the poor show in the Lok Sabha elections.
Party president Rajnath Singh said this showed that the BJP was “not on a sticky wicket” and not losing ground in States ruled by it.
Spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad saw a “ray of hope” and pointed out that the party had wrested seats from the Congress it had not won since Independence.
In Gujarat, the BJP won five out of seven by-elections. The Congress held six of these seats. Included in the BJP’s victories, was the Assembly segment of Jasdan in Rajkot, which, Mr. Prasad said, the BJP had never won since Independence. He took the opportunity to criticise the Congress for “hyping” the issue of the 2004 encounter deaths of Ishrat Jehan and three others, just before polling was due. This, he said, had been counter-productive for the Congress, which in public perception, seemed to be “on the side of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists.”
Although, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi did not campaign at all, the victories are being attributed to the people’s approval of his government. One senior leader said there was also a difference in the manner people vote for an Assembly election, where the focus is on the State government’s administration, and the Lok Sabha election, where national issues and the national mood dominate.
In Uttarakhand, where the BJP won both by-elections, party leaders are attributing this to the “timely” replacement of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri, during whose tenure the party lost all five Lok Sabha seats in the State. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won one Assembly by-election and the Congress took the other seat. Both were held by the Congress.
The party’s more than decent showing in the by-elections is seen as a morale booster after the criticism of the leadership by some senior party leaders and the expulsion of Jaswant Singh.