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These are the two answers we will have by the end of the day today after counting – which began at 8 am – is concluded for Monday’s bypolls in four Lok Sabha (LS) seats, nine assembly seats, and one election for an assembly seat in Karnataka.
Why are these two answers so key? Here are 10 points that will help explain that:
1) After the LS polls in 2014, the BJP, on its own, had 282 seats. Now, it has 272 – down 10 seats and holding exactly the amount need for a simple majority. This is due to, among other things, six bypoll losses since 2014.
2) To be sure, the BJP-led NDA will still sit pretty – as together they will have more than 272 seats – but another bypoll loss is sure to be a psychological blow for the BJP, coming as it will on the heels of a blow in Karnataka, a state it saw as a gateway to the south for LS 2019.
3) Arguably, the biggest of the six LS bypoll losses the BJP has suffered since 2014 were in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh in March this year. Here, joint Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates proved to be giantkillers. For the BJP, Gorakhpur was significant as it was the bastion of chief minister Adityanath, who represented the seat in the LS five times. Prior to Adityanath, the seat was thrice represented in Parliament by his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath.
4) Therefore, today’s result from Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana LS seat is the one to watch out for. This time too, like in March, a joint opposition candidate faced off with the BJP one – the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Tabassum Hasan, who was supported by the Congress, the SP and the BSP.
5) Today will also see results from UP’s Noorpur Assembly constituency. Here, the BJP will take on SP candidate Naimul-Hasan, as per an agreement between the SP and the RLD. There’s no BSP candidate in the fray.
6) These two bypolls are a big test for the BJP versus a unified opposition. The fate of this united opposition experiment could pave the way for the two major players in Uttar Pradesh to tie up in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to counter the BJP.
7) This UP opposition alliance, along with the coming together of the JD (S) – supported by the BSP – and the Congress in Karnataka, will make it two states where the BJP will fight a resurgent opposition in LS 2019.
8) Meanwhile, the byelection results in Maharashtra’s Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seats will also be watched keenly, if only to see the complete unravelling of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. The Palghar LS bypoll is almost a direct contest between the BJP and the Shiv Sena. And in Bhandara-Gondia – where a bypoll was held because the sitting BJP MP returned to the Congress – an NCP-Congress opposition combine candidate will face off with the BJP’s representative.
9) In Bihar, the Jokihat Assembly seat saw an all-out contest between the JD(U) (which is now part of the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). IN an LS bypoll in March in Araria, the RJD won what was a BJP seat. That March contest – the first in the state since the break-up of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ and the JD(U) going back into the BJP-led NDA fold – gave the RJD bragging rights. If the RJD wins today’s bypoll as well, it will get another huge boost and will buoy opposition prospects in general, ahead of the LS polls next year.
10) Last but not least, is the result of the assembly poll held for the RR Nagar seat in Karnataka. Here, the contest is among the BJP, the Congress and the JD(S). The latter two are fielding separate candidates, despite coming together to form the government in the state after no single party got a majority in results declared on May 15. The result today will give an indication of how the JD(S)-Congress coalition government will function in the months to come.