Unabated slide



The focus of the results of byelections which were held in seven states last week is on the losers rather than on the winners. They have confirmed the decline of the Left in its strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala and of the Samajwadi Party in UP. The BJP also has nothing to cheer about in UP, Rajasthan or Himachal Pradesh which are important states for the party. The gainers are the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The trend is a continuation of the political shift that was in evidence in the Lok Sabha elections except in UP where the BSP could stop the perceived advance of the Congress.

It is no consolation for the Left Front that the seats it lost were earlier held by its rivals in two states. The TMC retained all its seven seats in West Bengal and Kerala’s Congress-led UDF won the three seats the party had held. The Left Front had pulled out all stops to wrest some of the seats and undo the damage done by the rout in parliament elections. But the successive defeats show that West Bengal is slipping out of Left control, just as Kerala, going by indications, already has. The CPM and its allies will have to do a lot of rethinking and repositioning in the two states where it has to face Assembly elections in the next two years.

In UP the Samajwadi Party has lost its position as a challenger to the BSP, yielding it to the Congress. The BSP has bounced back from the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha poll, by wresting five seats from the SP and two from the Congress. Many SP strongholds have crumbled, with the Congress also gaining in the process. It has won the prestigious Ferozabad Lok Sabha seat and Lucknow (West), indicating that its inroads into the state are real. The BSP exerted itself to fight off an adverse environment and anti-incumbency sentiment in the state and succeeded. The results show that the fight between the BSP and the Congress will be decisive in UP politics in the coming months, with the SP and the BJP fighting for their place on the sidelines.

Byelections generally do not have national significance. But the sorry plight of the Left , the SP and the BJP has been accentuated by the results now and that is why the spotlight is on the losers.

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