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BJP: ‘Index of Voters’ Unhappiness working against the BJP | India News

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NEW DELHI: Most byelections come and go. Usually, they are just footnotes in the history of India’s poll politics. But a few byelections mean more than a mere shifting of seats from one party to another. And after BJP’s double defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls on Wednesday, several pundits feel that the outcome could alter the shape of Indian politics, especially in Uttar Pradesh.

Both Lok Sabha seats were won by Samajwadi Party with erstwhile firm foe BSP backing its candidates. The two parties had been at loggerheads since 1995 after BSP supremo Mayawati was attacked at a Lucknow guesthouse allegedly by SP workers. A lot has changed since, notably Akhilesh Yadav taking over SP from his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was the party boss when the incident occurred.

Social scientist Badri Narayan says that the success of the BSP-SP electoral pact could encourage both parties to evolve a long-term alliance. “Mayawati is a tough negotiator but the two parties could be partners in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” he says. Political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed offers a similar view. “Politics creates strange bedfellows. There is no reason why BSP and SP cannot come together,” he says.

Both SP and BSP were routed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But poll statistics show that neither had lost its support base. In 2014, SP claimed five seats after mustering 22% votes. BSP won none though it received 20% votes. On the other hand, with a vote share of 42%, BJP plus allies romped home with 73 (71 + 2) out of a possible 80 seats. The big picture hardly changed in the 2017 UP state polls.

It is different in 2018. Supported by BSP, SP won by over 59,000 votes in Phulpur, and by more than 21,000 votes in Gorakhpur. To put the results in perspective, BJP had polled 1.44 lakh votes more than SP and BSP combined in Phulpur in the 2014 LS polls. In Gorakhpur too, BJP had received 1.36 lakh votes more than its rivals.

Political commentator and psephologist Yogendra Yadav says the shift of votes since 2014 in both these seats cannot be explained merely by coalition arithmetic. “Something is clearly going wrong with Yogi’s, or perhaps Modi’s, chemistry. Besides IOU (Index of Opposition Unity), there is also IVU (Index of Voters’ Unhappiness) working against the BJP,” he said.

Ahmed, too, feels that the results are in tune with the process which began with the Gujarat assembly polls late last year. “It shows that the BJP is slowly losing its supporters. The results will boost the Opposition,” he said.

Political columnist Chandrabhan Prasad said an SP-BSP alliance makes good electoral sense but it is difficult to say whether it will fructify. “The popular mood is for a larger alliance against the BJP. If BSP is seen as a spoiler to a potential mahagatbandhan (grand alliance), Mayawati could have problems sustaining her Dalit base. Similarly, if Akhilesh is seen as a spoiler, then his support, especially among the Muslims, could slip away. Muslims are following the political development closely but silently. They will give their answer in the election booth in the 2019 LS polls,” he said.

Updated: March 14, 2018 — 3:59 pm

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