Bypolls: Wake-up call for ruling parties

Ruling parties generally do well in byelections, unless they run a thoroughly discredited government. Viewed from this perspective, the just concluded assembly bypolls constitute a setback to the Siddaramaiah-led Congress dispensation in Karnataka and the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav-led government in Uttar Pradesh. In both these states, bypolls were held for three assembly seats each. The Congress could get only one of the three seats in Karnataka and the SP too won only one of the three seats at stake in UP. It is not just the defeats in a majority of two seats that should worry the Congress in Karnataka and the SP in UP. In Karnataka, the opposition Janata Dal (Secular) headed by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda fared very poorly as its candidates lost deposits in all three seats. But the Congress has seemingly not gained from the JD(S)’s poor show. Instead, its main rival, the BJP has. If this is an early trend, then it is not good for the Congress in the next general elections to the Karnataka state assembly due in two years’ time.

In UP, the SP’s poor show should be more worrying to the ruling party in view of the fact that the party did not have to contend with its main rival, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party. With the state assembly elections due early next year, the BSP, for tactical reasons, did not field its candidate in any of the three seats that went to bypolls in the state. With the BSP out of the fray, the voters in Western UP’s Deoband seat by-poll, preferred to cast their lot with the Congress than support the SP, leading to a surprise victory for the Congress nominee.

After its recent setbacks in local bodies’ and assembly and parliamentary bypolls in its stronghold states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the ruling BJP managed to win the bypolls for one seat each in the two states. However, its ally in Punjab – the Shiromani Akali Dal – won a misleading victory in the lone assembly bypoll held in the northern state. There was hardly a contest in the Khadoor Sahib byelection as the opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party had both stayed away from the contest to avoid a possible defeat at each other’s hands. While the Akalis will try to use this victory to resur-rect themselves, the battle to be watched in the next year’s general assembly polls in the state will be the one between the Congress and the AAP.

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