Bypoll lessons

It is not always that assembly byelection results generate curiosity or indepth analysis. However, the last week’s bypolls held in Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab gave an interesting insight to the choice of the voters.

Of the 18 seats which went for polls in these states, Congress and its allies bagged 10, the BJP won seven and its ally the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), one. The tally may have surprised the BJP – the common factor in the four states save for Punjab where it is minor ruling partner of SAD -  which only three months ago stormed to power at the Centre.

The ruling Congress has reasons to smile in Karnataka wresting Bellary Rural from BJP, which had won the seat in all the three assembly polls since 2008. The Congress retained the other while ensuring the main Opposition party in the state eke out a win with a reduced margin in the third.

In Madhya Pradesh, the firmly-in-the-saddle BJP suffered a jolt as Congress wrested one seat from it. The ruling party won the rest two. As for Punjab, the SAD seemed to have overcome the anti-incumbency factor as it retained one seat while Congress held on to the other.

It is, however, Bihar where results indicated a swing away from the BJP – the party which had won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats after then chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) broke away from it - managed to retain only four of the eight seats it had held.

As Kumar forged a “grand secular alliance” with friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Congress, the formation proved formidable winning six of the 10 seats. For the “Mandal” champions, this comes as a good augury ahead of the state assembly polls, scheduled for October-November, 2015.

As for the BJP – which had lost all the three seats in the bypolls in Uttarakhand last month - there may be a few lessons from the results. With Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand going for polls shortly, the party, which did exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha elections in these states, knows that it cannot afford to be complacent in the assembly polls.

It will also be aware of the fact that Narendra Modi’s development agenda may not work in the coming elections where the people will not be voting for him but for local leaders and on local issues. It will have to take allies along and possibly, scout for new ones.

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