Chink in armour

Does bypoll results suggest BJP's vulnerability against united opposition?

BJP flag Representational image

A consolidation of opposition votes leading to its defeat in three Lok Sabha bypolls, including its bastion Gorakhpur, is likely to send BJP top brass to the drawing board, as the country's largest state, besides Bihar, are central to its strategy for winning the general elections in 2019.

The fact that the BJP's key plank of Hindutva was neutralised by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in a state ruled by its saffron mascot Yogi Adityanath has exposed chinks in its armour, while boosting the opposition's efforts of putting up a united front against it in 2019.

BJP chief Amit Shah was at the party headquarters as the news of the defeat in all three Lok Sabha seats arrived. He is likely to review its performance with senior party colleagues in the coming days, sources said.

The party, however, played down its defeat, saying people tend to vote on local factors in these elections as their results have no bearing on the stability of either the central or state governments.

BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao also claimed that voters seem to want to bring some amount of "political equilibrium" by giving encouragement to defeated parties as the saffron party has been winning assembly elections. He noted that the BJP has lost in bypolls held earlier as well, but continues to win regular assembly elections.

"In general elections people vote to elect a government and the BJP has always been the favourite as people want guarantee of good governance which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought in politics. Bypolls have no impact on stability of a government whether at the Centre or state," he said.

In a jolt to the party, it suffered a shock defeat in Gorakhpur, a seat vacated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and also Phulpur, a constituency won by Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya in 2014, and Araria in Bihar.

The results have underscored the BJP's vulnerability in Uttar Pradesh, where together with allies it had won 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The Samajwadi Party had won five seats and BSP failed to open its account.

Some party MPs from the state said an alliance between the SP and the BSP in the next Lok Sabha elections will pose a very serious challenge. The SP had polled 22.2 per cent votes and BSP 19.6 per cent when a BJP wave swept the state in 2014. The two parties had polled over 20 per cent votes each in the 2017 assembly polls. The BJP alliance had got over 42 per cent vote share in 2014.

The presence of Bihar Chief Nitish Kumar in the NDA camp also did not help it beat RJD in Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad assembly seats, both of which were held by the Lalu Prasad's party.

Some party leaders took consolation in the BJP's improved show in Araria, where the Muslim-Yadav combine is strong. The BJP had won the seat in 2009 and 2004 as well when Kumar was also a part of its alliance. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the NDA had won 31 of the 40 seats in Bihar.