A straw in the wind
It appears that the magic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waning. His party, the BJP has met a reverse in the bypolls. Out of the 18 seats in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar, the BJP won only seven. The parliamentary election held nearly four months ago saw the BJP sweeping and even getting a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha.
The disenchantment of the voters in such a small period is indeed a point of deeper analysis. True, the party made too many promises which were hard to implement. But that is only a part of the explanation. The full explanation is that no home work seems to have been done on the capacity to deliver. Over the years, elections have become only a futile exercise of toll promises and very little implementation. Since the parties’ purpose is to win, the reality comes before the public long after it is all over. The voters flip from one party to another, expecting better performance than the last time. They also punish those who did not measure up to their standard. The Congress has been reduced to only 44 members in the Lok Sabha, not even making the 55 seats required to claim the position of Leader of the Opposition.
The results of the bypolls also show how the political parties, jaded as they are, losing sheen. The BJP, which swept the Lok Sabha polls, has quickly slipped down in position. The fault lies with the political parties which are not learning their lessons. The voters’ disillusionment is visible from election after election. It is obvious that the present dispensation does not sway the electorate.
The byelections were seen as a litmus test for the BJP as well as the new combination of the RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the JD (U) of Nitish Kumar and the Congress. Indeed, the stakes were high for all the three parties in the secular alliance against the BJP which was riding on its massive success in the Lok Sabha polls. The results must have come as a real morale-booster for the combine, particularly for the grand old party Congress.
On the other hand, the BJP must be feeling greatly disappointed for its performance which was below expectations. Though the party leadership put up a brave front, it will have to go back to the drawing board to arrest the trend sooner than later as the BJP has little time before the September byelections in Uttar Pradesh for 11 seats.
For BJP President Amit Shah, who has made wholesale changes to the party structure-it is a pity that old guards L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have been omitted from the parliamentary board-the UP bypoll results will be crucial. He has already said that he would want all the 11 seats in his basket, largely because the elections will be sort of a semifinal before the 2017 Assembly elections in the state.
Shah will have to work overtime to pick his candidates since the byelections will be a triangular affair with the Congress and the Samajwadi Party having announced their candidates. Even otherwise, Shah’s credibility is at stake after he was pitch forked to the current position when he singlehandedly helped the BJP win 70 out of 80 seats from the state in the Lok Sabha polls.
The loss of a seat in the Madhya Pradesh bypolls particularly is an alarm bell for both Shah and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state Chief Minister who has been inducted in the parliamentary board, which is the highest decision-making body.
More than the victory by the Congress which wrested the Bahoriband assembly seat from the ruling party, it is the defeat of the BJP candidate which must be hurting it badly. After all, the Congress managed to retain just two out of 29 Lok Sabha seats in the state only recently.
As for the Lalu-Nitish alliance in Bihar, the bypoll results must have come as a shot in the arm for the two veteran politicians. It was a well thought out political gamble the two took and it has paid rich dividends, after their parties had taken a real drubbing in the April-May Lok Sabha elections. Knowing full well the pattern of voting and caste arithmetic of Bihar politics, the two leaders apparently realized that they stood a chance only if they were to put up a collective fight.
No doubt, it was a bold experiment which may well pave the way for a possible realignment of anti-BJP parties on a single platform in the run up to the next assembly elections in the state. Bahujan Samajwadi Party’s Mayawati has shunned such an offer from Mulayam Singh Yadav for the UP bypolls because she has not yet forgotten the “attempt” by the Samajwadi Party to eliminate her. But in the time to come if she gains confidence, she could reconsider the offer.