What Do Seven By-Election Results Indicate?

There is no stopping the BJP juggernaut in politically significant Uttar Pradesh.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source: PIB website)</p></div>
(Source: PIB website)

The Bharatiya Janata Party has won four of the seven assembly bypolls spread across six states. One seat each has gone to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).

Of the seven seats, the BJP had three, the Congress two, the RJD one and the Shiv Sena had one last time round. The bypoll results show a gain of one seat each for the BJP and the TRS, a loss of two for the Congress while the RJD and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) have retained their respective seats.

What do the results tell us about the big picture?  

First, the caveat though. Drawing big conclusions on the basis of bypoll results is fraught with risks. In terms of focus, resource and energy, midterm elections don’t quite get the kind of attention parties normally give around general elections.

But some indications are loud and clear. And they are:

  • There is no stopping the BJP juggernaut in politically significant Uttar Pradesh.

  • The TRS continues to be a favourite in Telangana and the BJP has emerged as its principal challenger, replacing the rapidly declining Congress there.

  • The magic of Bhajan Lal’s family continues in its pocket borough of Haryana’s Adampur.

  • The electoral arithmetic of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD combine remains intact.

  • And the electoral decline of the Congress continues.

While the by-election results have been more or less on the expected lines, some points need further elaboration. For instance, the verdict in Bihar’s two seats- Mokama and Gopalganj- clearly establishes that Nitish-Tejashwi combination enjoys considerable advantage.

Mokama has been voting for strongman Anant Singh, now with the RJD, in all the assembly elections since 2005. In the 2020 elections, he won with a massive vote share of 52%. In the bypoll, his wife and RJD nominee won with an even bigger vote share of 53.44%. BJP candidate received 42% votes, election commission data show.

Gopalganj has been a BJP stronghold like only a handful of others are in Bihar. The party has won this seat in all elections since 2005, and too with an impressive vote share of around 45%. Even in the 2015 assembly elections when Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD had contested together, the BJP had won the seat handsomely. The RJD’s last win on this seat was way back in 2000. The BJP retained the seat in the by-election with a slender margin of less than 2,000 votes. The difference in vote share between the winner and the runner up this time was less than one per cent.

In Haryana’s Adampur, BJP’s Bhavya Bishnoi won with an impressive vote share of 51%. Members of the former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal's family have won all the elections from Adampur since 1967. The assembly seat has gone to Bhajan Lal’s grandson this time. While the Congress candidate received 39% votes, the AAP candidate could manage only 2.6% votes.

BJP Gaining In Telangana’s Erstwhile Left Bastion

In Telangana’s Munugode, the TRS has wrested the seat from the Congress in the by-election. It was a different story altogether four years ago. The Congress had registered an emphatic win in the 2018 assembly elections with a vote share of 49% here. While the TRS could get 38% votes, the BJP’s was a paltry 6.4% votes.

Election Commission data for the bypoll show that the Congress’ vote share has plunged to less than 12%, the BJP’s has climbed to 39%. The TRS too has registered a gain of two percentage points. The BJP’s gains seem directly proportional to the loss of the Congress.

Interestingly, Munugode used to be a traditional stronghold of the Communists. The CPI had won the seat as many as five times while the assembly was part of the undivided Andhra Pradesh. The shades of red turning saffron in pockets in Munugode seems like an action replay of what was witnessed in parts of West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.