The results of the recent byelections to seven Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Uttarakhand have come as a boost to the INDIA alliance with the Opposition grouping winning four of the seats while the BJP won three. The Samajwadi Party’s victory in the Ghosi seat in UP where the BJP had pulled out all the stops is a big blow to Yogi Adityanath’s muscular style of politics. It proved that a united Opposition can be a formidable challenge. The INDIA alliance passed its first electoral test with flying colours. The SP was in a one-on-one fight with the BJP as the Congress did not field a candidate and neither did Mayawati’s Bahujan Samj Party, proving that unity in the Opposition ranks can work wonders in the electoral arena. In Kerala’s Puthupally, where the bypoll was necessitated by the death of veteran Congress leader and former chief minister Oomen Chandy, the result was a foregone conclusion. The Congress had fielded the late leader’s son Chandy Oomen and he won by a huge margin surpassing his father’s victory tally. In West Bengal’s Dhupguri, the Trinamool Congress defeated the BJP candidate despite facing a triangular contest with the CPI-M also fielding a candidate backed by the Congress. In Jharkhand, the JMM representing the INDIA alliance won the Dumri seat. Tripura proved to be a happy hunting ground for the BJP as it won both the Dhanpur and Boxanagar seats. In the latter the saffron party got its lone Muslim MLA. The BJP also retained the Bageshwar seat in Uttarakhand where the Congress and SP had put up candidates.
The bypoll results, especially the Ghosi verdict, calls for some introspection by the BJP but they have also highlighted drawbacks in the Opposition’s unity efforts with the contradictions in the INDIA alliance coming to the fore. While in Kerala, the Congress and CPI-M continue to be at daggers drawn, in West Bengal and Tripura, the Congress and Left have joined hands to take on the Trinamool Congress. These issues will have to be ironed out ahead of the 2024 general election. The sternest test for the Opposition will come in the upcoming Assembly elections in five states. It is there that all permutations and combinations will have to be figured out. Even if the Opposition parties achieve good results in the Assembly polls, there is no guarantee that they will replicate it in 2024. The BJP, riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful hosting of the G20 summit and its tried and tested electoral gambits, may well sail home in spectacular fashion ensuring an unprecedented third term for the NDA.