In states where the Congress has zero presence, the BJP is struggling to gain foothold.
The bypoll results have been a mixed bag, giving every party in the country a reason to rejoice.
But the BJP’s defeat in Kairana is a serious setback to the party in Uttar Pradesh, losing its second prestigious seat after Gorakhpur. Both defeats will be projected as a personal loss of face for chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
The results reveal a strange but explainable pattern. The BJP lost none of these seats to the Congress, but to regional parties. This clearly means that the real challengers of the BJP are the regional parties who have been able to overcome their pathetic and congenital differences, bury the hatchet, albeit temporarily, and forge a larger alliance with the sole aim of defeating the BJP.
In Gorakhpur constituency, the SP and the BSP came together to defeat the BJP but the Congress fielded its own candidate and forfeited the deposit. This time, the Congress decided to play the second, or even the non-existent third fiddle. In all likelihood, had the Congress fielded a candidate in Kairana, it would have lost miserably.
So, a new phenomenon is emerging where the non-Congress parties, all opposed to the BJP, are trying to forge a common platform to defeat the BJP. While they may witness marginal success in this endeavour, these parties are actually causing a greater damage to the one-and-half-century-old Congress party. The Congress, which was rejected in Karnataka, had to fall at the feet of the JD(S) to keep the BJP out of power. In Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, the Congress party has no role to play and has to swallow the ignominy of not even being consulted or being invited to join the victory processions.
With 2019 general elections around the corner, it is time for all the political parties to take stock of the situation and do course-correction. No political party in all these years has been able to maintain a winning streak for all the five years of its rule, either at the centre or in states.
Democracy is all about change and if the BJP has lost in some seats, it will do itself and the country great service by analysing the causes of its setback. It will do no good for the party to be complacent about its strategy. Every election from now on will be a step towards 2019, and the party can ill afford to lose even one single election.
The BJP has done extremely well in states where the Congress had a good presence, or was able to challenge the BJP, or had its government. Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat are some of the states the BJP wrested from the Congress. As against this, in states where the Congress has zero presence, like West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is struggling to gain foothold.
It would be tempting to conclude that the BJP would need a formidable presence of the Congress to win, and probably the best bet for the Congress to regain its lost glory would be to stand up to the BJP, instead of falling at the feet of regional parties and losing its size and stature in the bargain.
That is a lesson for all-India parties in these election results.
The author is a security and strategic affairs commentator, and former editor of ‘Organiser’.