The recently held by-polls across 13 states and 1 Union Territory and their results announced yesterday by the ECI (Election Commission of India) have given a lot to think, to the BJP. The saffron party had a mixed bag of results where it dominated the Northeast, made a significant dent in Telangana and Madhya Pradesh, but got routed in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal.
Starting with the positives, under the name of its talisman Assamese leader, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the ruling BJP and its ally (United People’s Party, Liberal) won all the five Assembly constituencies — Gossaigaon, Tamulpur, Bhabanipur, Mariani and Thowra. With Himanta gaining popularity amongst the masses with his effective governance style, the result was all but inevitable.
Rise of Himanta of south:
In Telangana, CM K Chandrasekhar Rao’s arch-nemesis Eatala Rajender won the Huzurabad assembly seat for the seventh consecutive term on a BJP ticket. Rajender is being seen as the Himanta of the southern state, with many predicting that he might ultimately take down KCR.
Meanwhile, in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP handsomely won in two of the three assembly seats along with the Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency. The only defeat came on the Raigon seat, where Congress’ Kalpana Verma ousted BJPs Pratima Bagari.
Dismal performance in Himachal Pradesh:
However, warning bells must have started ringing after seeing the results in Himachal Pradesh, where BJP is currently in power. According to the ECI website, BJP not only lost the three Assembly seats in the fray, but it also lost control over the Lok Sabha seat of Mandi, previously held by the party. Mandi is the home district of Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, and Himachal Pradesh is the home state of BJP national president J P Nadda.
The BJP command not paying enough attention to Himachal Pradesh and the dipping approval ratings of Thakur formed a fatal concoction, which led to the dismal performance of the party.
Routed in Rajasthan:
In Rajasthan, Congress candidates Nagraj Meena and Preeti Shaktawat won Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar assembly constituencies, with margins of 18,725 and 20,606 votes, respectively. The former seat was held by the BJP before bypolls, and thus, it comes as a shocker that despite the flailing governance of CM Ashok Gehlot, BJP failed to make gains.
In Karnataka too, newly appointed Chief Minister BS Bommai faced embarrassment, when the BJP could not win the assembly bypoll of Hanagal, a seat in the home district of the Chief Minister, where he invested much time and effort.
Clean swept in West Bengal:
One of the biggest facepalm moments for the BJP came from West Bengal, where it wrested away all the momentum of the assembly elections, held earlier this year in April-May. Reportedly, BJP got clean swept 4-0, with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) basking in the glory of another winning streak. Such was the dominant display that BJP lost the Dinhata and Santipur seats in Coochbehar and Nadia districts respectively, by huge margins.
In Dinhata, BJPs Ashok Mandal lost the election by a whopping 1,63,729 votes margin, whereas,= in Santipur, Niranjan Biswas got decimated by a margin of 64,675 votes. Both seats were held by the BJP in the run-up to the by-polls. Thus, the extent of defeat paints a grim picture for the state cadre and the national leadership.
BJP needs to solve state leadership crisis:
In the aftermath of the assembly election, TMC had indulged in state-sponsored killings and lynchings of non-TMC voters, especially the saffron party voters. Hindus were targeted en masse, and forced to live like refugees in their own home state. However, the BJP and its leaders refused to come to the ground and take decisive action against the dictatorial regime of Mamata. They left the public to fend for themselves, and hence, the anger of being left alone got translated into the voting pattern.
If the BJP continues on a similar trajectory, it would quickly undo the gains made in the 2019 LS elections and the just-concluded assembly elections. The bypolls could not have come at a better time.
With Punjab and Uttar Pradesh assembly elections looming, BJP needs to get into action-mode and take tough decisions. Going into the states with an air of complacency and arrogance can backfire, wildly. While UP might still be in the bag, the lack of state leadership in Punjab, akin to Rajasthan, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh, could prove disastrous.