Interim signals: On BJP posing insurmountable challenge to Opposition

The outcomes in three Lok Sabha constituencies, one in Punjab and two in Uttar Pradesh, make significant political points, unusual for such routine bypolls. AAP faced a major setback in Punjab as it lost its bastion Sangrur, which was vacated by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann who had won it in 2014 and 2019. The party’s Assembly victory in Punjab was seen as validation of its national ambitions, but Sunday’s setback must serve as a reality check. If anything, AAP’s performance in Punjab in the last three months, far from proving its capacity to be a national party, has only raised several questions. As it turned out, the Opposition — the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), SAD (Amritsar), the Congress and the BJP — all fighting separately, made the point on the gap between AAP’s promise and delivery; and between its claims and capacity. In Punjab, a State with its finances in a shambles and its bureaucracy and the police a law unto themselves, the inexperienced band of activists that came to power is caught in a bind. Mr. Mann also faces the charge of being remote-controlled from Delhi by party chief Arvind Kejriwal. The winner, Simranjit Singh Mann of the SAD (Amritsar), made Sangrur as significant as the loser did. He is a vociferous supporter of Khalistan and an ardent follower of Bhindranwale, who spearheaded the violent, terrorist separatism of the 1980s. His victory, and the complete emaciation of the Congress, the SAD and the BJP, signals the dangerous crossroads Punjab is at.

In U.P., the BJP’s victories in Rampur and Azamgarh prove the continuing potency of the party in the heartland. Azamgarh was vacated by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, who chose to retain the Assembly seat that he won while the party lost a second consecutive time. Rampur was vacated by senior party leader Azam Khan, who will retain his Assembly seat. That such strongholds have slipped out of its hands is further proof that the SP’s hopes of a return in U.P. may be unrealistic, and its style, character and personnel are unacceptable to large sections of the voters. While the U.P. results make the BJP’s position unassailable, they also open new possibilities in the Opposition space as the SP’s slide continues. In the Atmakur Assembly segment in Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP scored an impressive victory, while a victory each in Tripura and Jharkhand made the day for the Congress. The CPI(M) continued to sink in Tripura, its former stronghold. In Delhi, AAP retained the Rajinder Nagar Assembly seat, but that is little solace for the party that lost its representation in the Lok Sabha entirely. Overall, the bypoll outcomes underscore the continuing dominance of the BJP, and the continuing inability of the Opposition to rise to the challenge.

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Printable version | Jun 28, 2022 1:24:14 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/interim-signals-on-bjp-posing-insurmountable-challenge-to-opposition/article65570537.ece