Message from voters: On Odisha, Uttarakhand bypoll results

It is not often that by-elections are of any significant consequence. But Uttarakhand, where the Chief Minister was in a do-or-die battle; Kerala, where the main Opposition, the Congress, was fighting for survival; and Odisha, where the ruling party was seeking another vote of confidence; all saw high-stakes contests. An impressive victory in the Thrikkakara Assembly by-election has revived the Congress in Kerala from the slumber and the chaos that had gripped the party following two consecutive Assembly election defeats, in 2016 and 2021. The seat is a Congress stronghold that stayed with the party even in 2021, when the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) won 99 of the 140 seats. The seat had fallen vacant following the demise of P.T. Thomas, who had shown great courage to stand up to the Catholic Church on issues of public policy. His wife Uma Thomas was the Congress candidate. The LDF was criticised on grounds that it sought to align its selection of candidate and campaign with the wishes of the Church. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) also turned the election into a referendum on the Silver Line semi-high speed railway project that the Pinarayi Vijayan government was championing. The victory, by an increased margin in comparison with 2021, reinforces the leadership of V.D. Satheesan, the leader of Opposition, and K. Sudhakaran, the President of the Congress State unit. The CPI(M) and the LDF must take the lessons from the results with humility and appropriately recalibrate their positions.

In Odisha’s Brajarajnagar Assembly constituency, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate, Alaka Mohanty, won by a margin of 66,122 votes, defeating the Congress that pushed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the third position. The bypoll was necessitated by the death of the winner’s husband Kishore Mohanty. The result has further strengthened the hands of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who revamped his Council of Ministers immediately after the victory. The BJP that has been nurturing ambitions to replace the BJD in the State had to eat humble pie in the seat, though it is part of the Bargarh Parliamentary Constituency which it had won in 2019. In 2024, Mr. Patnaik will be on his way to becoming one of the longest serving Chief Ministers. In Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami won the Champawat Assembly seat as expected, tightening his grip over the party. The BJP has been going through a churn in the State, leading to the elevation of Mr. Dhami who was not an MLA, after the Assembly elections in February-March. But the path ahead will depend on how smartly Mr. Dhami navigates the dangerous roads in the hill State’s politics.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2022 1:16:07 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/message-from-voters-the-hindu-editorial-on-odisha-uttarakhand-bypoll-results/article65497676.ece