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The much-anticipated Kairana result saw RLD’s Tabassum Hasan, supported by Samajwadi Party and BSP, winning by over 44,000 votes as she defeated Mriganka Singh, daughter of late BJP MP Hukum Singh, who had raised the issue of a “Hindu exodus” from the area.
By election results for 4 Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats: Highlights
A powerful coalition of Muslims, Jatavs and Jats turned the tables on BJP with the result being analysed in the context of polarised politics of the region in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Hasan promptly hailed her win as a victory over communalism. Noorpur saw SP’s Naeemul Hasan winning by 6,000-odd votes, dethroning BJP.
The results of four LS bypolls were evenly split. BJP won Palghar in Maharashtra and its ally won the Nagaland seat, while NCP won Bhandara-Gondia and RLD Kairana. BJP’s tally in the Lok Sabha now is 274, including two nominated MPs, and goes up by one with the Speaker.
With BJP having won 71 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, UP is a key battleground and the possibility of a sharp reduction in the party’s tally here is seen to have a bearing on its ability to return to office. BJP’s voteshare of 42% in 2014 may not be enough to counter the caste combination of its rivals as it outguns the grand alliance only on some 20-odd seats, going by the last Lok Sabha polls.
The opposition victory exposes BJP’s vulnerability to a united challenge by foes such as BSP leader Mayawati, whose vote is transferable, and a consolidation of the Muslim vote behind an SP-BSP alliance. Congress is also likely to be a partner, hoping to gain seats as part of the grand alliance.
Though SP and BSP will need to settle seat-sharing and ground-level rivalries, the need to unite to check BJP, i.e. consolidating its vote, is a powerful motivation for the opposition. Success in Kairana follows morale-boosting wins in Gorakhpur, vacated by CM Yogi Aditya Nath, and Phulpur, held by deputy CM Keshav Maurya, and will make the possibility of opposition unity seem more feasible.
Elsewhere, there was good news for BJP in Maharashtra where it got the better of the Shiv Sena in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll despite its carping ally putting up the son of the deceased BJP MP — the reason for the election — as its nominee. The party reiterated its dominance over its ally and the win will help reduce Sena’s capacity to be a thorn in BJP’s side.
A miffed Sena protested the result and again declared that it would not contest the 2019 election as a BJP ally though the party continues to be part of the central and Maharashtra governments.
If indeed the Sena does not come around, BJP will face a three-cornered fight as Congress and NCP are certain to come together. NCP won the Bhandara-Gondiya seat by over 48,000 votes, with the support of influential leader Nana Patole who had left BJP.
Apart from UP and Maharashtra, the success of JMM in Silli and Gomia assembly seats in Jharkhand was a significant marker for the opposition, even though both were held by the party. BJP lacks a prominent tribal face at the state level and a JMM-Congress alliance, possibly including BJP rebel Babulal Marandi, can pose a stiff challenge to the saffron party in the Lok Sabha polls.
In Bihar, RJD expectedly won the Jokihat assembly seat, but there was some loss of face for JD(U) that had hoped for a slimmer margin than 41,000-odd votes. The result also makes it clear that JD (U) cannot expect much support from Muslims who have made RJD their preferred choice. It may also reduce room for JD(U) in the tussle for seat-sharing, with BJP and its allies currently holding 31 of 40 seats.
The assembly results saw CPM retaining Chengannur in Kerala with BJP finishing third, with a weaker finish than it had anticipated. Kerala is headed for triangular contests in the Lok Sabha polls and BJP had hoped that acredible tally of votes would help improve its seat-winning image. In Punjab, the Shahkot seat changed hands from SAD to Congress, indicating that the Akalis are yet to recover while the Amarinder Singh government seems to be doing well.
The Trinamool Congress crushed its rivals, winning the Maheshtala seat in West Bengal by more than 60,000 votes but BJP again emerged second by improving its voteshare. In Karnataka, Congress retained the R R Nagar seat where polling was countermanded.