The results of the by-polls in the three Lok Sabha constituencies of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the heartland of Hindi belt, give a lesson as well as a warning to the ruling and Opposition parties at the national level.
The heavy setback received by the BJP in Gorakhpur which became vacant following UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath relinquishing his seat, was a severe blow to Yogi personally and to BJP at the national level. Though BJP faced defeat in the five by-elections that took place after Modi came to power, the defeat in Gorakhpur is one that undoubtedly shatters the morale of the Hindutwa forces and at the same time provides new hopes to the Opposition. Yogi Adityanath who has been representing this constituency in the Lok Sabha for two decades, had emerged victorious with more than three lakh votes in 2014. Prior to that, it was Mahant Avaidyanath, Yogi’s predecessor and spiritual leader of Gorakhpur who had been winning in that constituency. It was the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation based in Gorakhpur which ignited and boosted the Ayodhya riots and transformed the saffron party from its two-member strength in parliament into a powerful force that bears the sceptre of the nation. And therefore, the setback now has several symbolic dimensions. BJP succumbed to defeat for 59, 000 votes in Phulpur parliamentary constituency which was left vacant after UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya stepped down. While in 2014 the BJP secured 52 per cent of the votes polled, it has shrunk to 39 per cent now. One could comprehend from the very low polling percentage that severe anti-government sentiments still exist. The fact that only 21.65 per cent voters in Allahabad north - which come under Phulpur constituency - and 31 per cent in Allahabad west came to cast their ballots, should prompt the political parties to ponder on the matter. It should be understood that a governance that failed to rise up to the expectations and a social environment which triggers disquiet gives rise to public ire against the Yogi government. Despite BJP snatching Nitish Kumar’s party from the Grand Alliance, the fact that people strongly supported Lalu Prasad Yadav who is in prison, is what adds shine to the victory of RJD candidate in Araria Lok Sabha seat in Bihar. The victory secured by RJD even in changing political circumstances gave a heavy blow to Nitish Kumar and the BJP. RJD has also retained the Jehanabad assembly seat.
Observers see the by-poll results as a preview of the general elections scheduled to be held next year. The latest scenario of national politics is capable of opening the eyes of everyone of the ruling party and the Opposition alike. It was the unilateral victory in UP that ushered Narendra Modi to the seat of power last time. The fact that when Samajwadi Party (SP) of Akhilesh and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) joined hands together at the last moment, they could make miracles happen this time, has given both the parties an opportunity to weave political strategies for future. The election adjustments that SP would vote for the BSP candidate in the approaching Rajya Sabha elections are what formed the caste equation that defeated the BJP. BJP's tactics failed at the face of the OBC-Dalit-Muslim co-ordination. And the nominal presence of Congress helped to split the votes of forward castes. What is now proven is that if the parties decide to employ the same strategy in future and take on Hindutva united, that can steer national politics on a new course. But practical hurdles remain. The bypoll results give a lesson that an alliance with the Congress is not going to yield much gain in UP. The grand old party's dismal defeat to the extent of losing its deposit tells us that the Congress is absolutely incapable of regaining its political ground that it lost in the 90's. The question that begs an answer is why the Congress is not able to repeat the consolation seats it won in the bypolls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. And the answer is to be searched in the political reality that in the new equations created by caste and identity politics, the Congress is losing its space at the face of BJP.
The people who may lose sleep following the bypoll results are the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and their cohorts, and Yogi Adityanath who with an eye on prime ministership keeps displaying the extreme face of Hindutva. Modi's honeymoon with the Hindi belt has come to an end. BJP has received a slap on its face from Akhilesh-Mayawati combine, at the same time when the victory in Tripura has inebriated the BJP with the newly attained rule, and emboldened it to call aloud the slogan of a Congress-free and Communist-free India. Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee described this as the beginning of the end of Modi's era. Although the beginning and end are to be determined by the political atmosphere of particular times, the present verdict is one that should give the Opposition confidence that if they open a warfront against Hindutva through a wise coalition, they can tame any political elephant running amok. What remains to be seen is whether the non-BJP will rise to the occasion.