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Bypolls setback for BJP in Himachal, Bengal & Rajasthan, Assam & Telangana the face-savers

BJP leaders say the party lost mainly because of ticket distribution at the local level and infighting in some of the state units.

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New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a setback in parliamentary and assembly bypolls in Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Rajasthan, even as it registered a big win in Assam.

The bypoll results for 29 assembly constituencies across 13 states and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli were announced Tuesday. Out of the three Lok Sabha seats, the BJP and Congress are leading in one seat each while the Dadra Nagar Haveli Lok Sabha seat was won by Shiv Sena’s Kalaben Mohanbhai Delkar.

A number of BJP leaders ThePrint spoke to said the reason the party lost in some states was mainly because of ticket distribution at the local level and infighting in some of the state party units.

“We have performed quite well in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana too. In places where we did not perform well, it was chiefly because of the internal issues at the state level and the infighting, whether it is Rajasthan or even Himachal Pradesh,” said a senior BJP leader requesting anonymity.

“In Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, ticket distribution also emerged as a major issue. At the same time price rise also emerged as an issue. But these results will have no bearing on our upcoming assembly elections.”

Sanjay Kumar, professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said the trend shows that voters favoured the ruling party.

“See, the larger trend is that the ruling party of the state has been able to perform well whether it is West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Assam with the exception being Himachal Pradesh. So, largely people have favoured the ruling party — whichever it is in that particular state. At the same time, we can’t say that the people are turning against the BJP. That’s not the message I get from these bypoll results. It will also have no bearing on the upcoming assembly elections,” said Kumar.

Here’s the lowdown on the saffron party’s performance.

Himachal Pradesh

The Congress won all three assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh — Fatehpur, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Arki — and was also leading in the Mandi Lok Sabha seat.

In Mandi’s parliamentary constituency, the Congress fielded Pratibha Singh — wife of late chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s — against BJP candidate Brigadier Khushal Thakur, a Kargil war hero.

The results are a worry for the BJP as it is also the home state of party president J.P. Nadda.

“The results come a year before the assembly polls and definitely raise questions on the ability of the chief minister (Jai Ram Thakur). Mandi Lok Sabha seat is also the chief minister’s home district. The way chief ministers were replaced in many states, it seems like these results indicate that Himachal Pradesh is also moving in that direction,” said a senior BJP leader.

“What is really troubling is the fact that in the Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency, BJP candidate Neelam Seraik got just 2,644 votes and forfeited her deposit with a vote share of 4.67 per cent. Chetan Bragta, an Independent candidate, secured 23,662 votes but was defeated by Congress candidate Rohit Thakur,” the leader added.

The Himachal Pradesh BJP unit faced a major rebellion in Jubbal-Kotkhai after Bragta was denied a ticket and Neelam Saraik was fielded, instead. “At that point itself many at the block level had resigned and today the results are in front of everyone to see. Party needs to be careful about ticket distribution,” said another leader.

“The results are definitely not as per our expectations. We will analyse the results minutely and fix the gaps. We will take feedback from our in-charges and will try to understand what are the issues that we could not address at the organisational level too,” Suresh Kashyap, president of Himachal Pradesh BJP, told ThePrint.

He also admitted that Bragta damaged the chances of the BJP candidate by contesting as an independent candidate.


Also read: Karnataka bypolls: BJP loses CM Bommai’s backyard Hangal to Congress, wins big in Sindgi


Haryana

The assembly elections were fought under the shadow of farmers’ unrest, and Abhay Chautala, who resigned as MLA over the contentious farm laws, delivered a win.

“Though we did put up a fight we did not get the kind of support we had hoped from the villages,” said a senior BJP leader requesting anonymity.

Rajasthan

In Rajasthan, where the Ashok Gehlot-led government won both the assembly seats, including one that was held by the BJP earlier, the results will only act as a dampener. This is because the BJP is embroiled in a massive infighting between state president Satish Poonia camp and former chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

“Gautam Lal Meena’s son Kanhaiya Meena was denied the ticket by the BJP in Dhariawad. Meena was a known supporter of Vasundhara Raje and this has only hurt the BJP. Though the Congress was also facing infighting, they did put up a united front for the elections and the results indicate that,” said a senior leader from Rajasthan BJP.

West Bengal

West Bengal too emerged as a big embarrassment for the BJP as it drew a blank in the bypolls, losing all four seats to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. These included two won by the BJP in the elections in April-May.

BJP candidates also lost their security deposit in three of the four seats.

The results are a setback for the BJP which is already battling an exodus of party leaders to the TMC.

“You see, in the bypolls, the results were almost certain as TMC did not allow our leaders and candidates to campaign. It is a one-party democracy and they didn’t even allow our polling agents to sit. At the same time, even after the 2019 Lok Sabha results, we did lose the bypolls conducted after it so not too much should be read in the results. We will sit and discuss what we need to do to strengthen the party,” said BJP vice president Dilip Ghosh.


Also read: Bengal bypolls: Trinamool sweeps all 4 seats, wrests Dinhata & Santipur from BJP  


Karnataka

In Karnataka, the BJP managed to win one of the two assembly seats. Though the party registered a landslide victory in Sindgi, a seat previously held by the Deve Gowda-led JD(S), the fact it lost in the prestige seat of Hangal, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s backyard, has raised the alarm bells for the party.

Telangana, MP, Assam

However, Eatala Rajender’s victory in Telangana came as a breather for the BJP. Rajender had quit the TRS and joined the BJP in June this year after he was sacked by the TRS over land grab allegations.

In Madhya Pradesh too the results came as a breather for Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government as it won two of the three assembly seats while the Congress secured victory in one constituency.

The BJP managed to put up a spectacular show in Assam where it won all three seats on which it had fielded its candidates. Its ally — United Peoples’ Party Liberal — won the other two seats.

Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted: “In Assam, BJP and allies are all set to register emphatic win on all 5 constituencies in the bye-polls by huge margins. This is a loud endorsement of people’s faith in visionary leadership of Hon PM Sri Narendra Modi. Grateful to Sri Amit Shah and JP Nadda for your guidance.”


Also read: Telangana bypoll: BJP wins Huzurabad ‘grudge match’, KCR’s ex-aide Eatala Rajender beats TRS


(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

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