Bypoll results bring mixed bag for BJP, warning bells over Himachal Pradesh loss

Congress party workers celebrate after hearing announcement on victory Congress candidate Srinivas Mane in the Hangal assembly by-election in Haveri on November 2, 2021.

Congress party workers celebrate after hearing announcement on victory Congress candidate Srinivas Mane in the Hangal assembly by-election in Haveri on November 2, 2021.

Bypoll results on Tuesday brought mixed results for the BJP, with a victorious sweep of all five Assembly seats in Assam, to the worrying trend of loss in Himachal Pradesh where BJP lost all three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seat in the fray. Questions on whether the losses were all about intra party factionalism or the effect of high prices of fuel and edible oils are also being raised.

Party leaders countered the argument that the BJP lost in Himachal Pradesh due to high cost of fuel and edible oil, to point to the narrowing of the lead of Abhay Singh Chautala by the BJP in Ellenabad in Haryana (the epicentre of the farmers protest) from 12,000 votes to just over 6000 votes.

Also read: Bypoll results live updates | November 2, 2021

“Bypolls are largely fought on local issues, if price rise can be termed an issue in Himachal, can Chautala’s narrow margin of victory and Congress coming third in Ellenabad not be termed as the waning of the farmers movement?” said one national office bearer.

The loss in Himachal Pradesh however will rankle in the BJP for a while as it lost not just the three Assembly seats in the fray, but also the Lok Sabha seat of Mandi , previously held by the party. Mandi is the home district of chief minister Jairam Thakur and Himachal Pradesh is the home state of BJP national president J P Nadda. While local leaders are attributing the loss to issues like price rise, the intra party wranglings are being pointed out by senior leaders in Delhi.

Also read: Rajasthan bypolls | Congress wins Vallabhnagar, Dhariawad Assembly seats

“The seat in Jubbal-Kotkhai was lost as Chetan Bragta was not given the ticket and he turned rebel, it was not handled well,” said a senior leader, while no explanation was given for the loss in Mandi. The party needs to introspect on why the Congress, considered enfeebled in Himachal Pradesh, was able to defeat the ruling BJP, and this introspection needs to take place before the state goes in for Assembly polls in late 2022.

In Karnataka too, newly appointed Chief Minister B S Bommai faced embarrassment when the BJP could not win the Assembly bypoll of Hanagal, a seat in the home district of the chief minister and where he invested much time and effort. Gracefully acknowledging the defeat in Hanagal and thanking party workers for their work in both Sindgi (where BJP won handsomely) and Hanagal, Mr Bommai gave appropriate credit to the Congress candidate Srinivas Mane, who he said had been rewarded by the people for his work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read: TMC sweeps Bengal bypolls, wins all four seats

On the question of his own leadership and the mixed results for the party, he pointed to former Chief Minister Siddharamaiah’s own patchy bypoll record in the past, “Mr Siddharamaiah also faced such loss and wins, so elections pertain to a particular time and particular issues and are not a verdict on the entire tenure.” But the reference to Mr Mane’s work during the pandemic is an important pointer to where Mr Bommai should expend his energies.

The victories in Assam (five seats), Telangana (one seat, Huzurabad) and in Madhya Pradesh (where BJP managed to win the Jobat Assembly seat, a Scheduled Tribe seat where the party had managed to win only twice in the last 70 years), brought some cheer to the party, with BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh tweeting his congratulations to Mr Sarma.

This year saw a procession of BJP Chief Ministers make their way to various Raj Bhawans to tender their resignations, the question remains whether the bypolls will restart that queue before Assembly polls in these states hit.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 3:02:23 am |