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Analysis

Updated on: Thursday, November 04, 2021, 12:05 AM IST

FPJ Edit: Bypoll results indicate trends that parties can choose to ignore at own peril

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Byelection results are, generally speaking, guided by local issues, rather than national ones. As such, it is improper to read too much into them. Nonetheless, the results declared on Tuesday compel public attention because they came from 13 states and one Union Territory, covering all the regions of the country. The results show certain trends which can be ignored by the parties concerned only at their own peril. Those who wish to write off the Congress need to re-estimate the party’s potential for a comeback to the centrestage of politics, if not power. Similarly, the BJP’s so-called invincibility needs to be reassessed. Also, the regional parties continue to hold sway in their states, no matter what the national parties do to push them off the stage.

For the Congress, the best performance was in Himachal Pradesh where it won all the three Assembly seats. It also got a bonus in the victory in the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency. For the ruling BJP, the results can only be seen as a warning. In a bipolar state like Himachal Pradesh, a small dent in the popularity of a party can play havoc with its electoral fortunes. It is obvious that the BJP is no longer popular with the electorate, which believes in political experimentation with either the Congress or the BJP. The Congress has reason to be satisfied with wresting a seat in the Karnataka chief minister’s home district and one each in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Rajasthan remains its citadel, while it has reasons to be worried about the setback in Assam and Meghalaya.

The BJP’s best performance was in Assam, where the party and its ally won all the five seats. The party’s decision to change the chief minister and bring in the veteran former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sarma as its new face seems to have paid dividends. His controversial initiative to dispossess some of their land has helped in the polarisation of voters. Religion-based polarisation has always benefited the party. The big loser is the Congress, which at one time had the unstinted support of the minority community, whose own vote strength has, over the years, dissipated. Allowance also must be made for the fact that it is still Biswas’s honeymoon period, as he was sworn in as recently as May 1.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has every reason to be happy about the electoral outcome. The significance of the victory of the party in the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, is not just that it is the first time the party has won a Lok Sabha seat from outside of Maharashtra. It opens up opportunities for the party in the rest of the country, especially in states like Madhya Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, with which Maharashtra shares borders and where Hindutva has deep roots. The victory of the Congress in Deglur is also a shot in the arm for the Shiv Sena-led government, which has been under tremendous pressure from Central agencies.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has proved, if proof was needed, that her victory in the assembly elections was not a fluke one. She has complete sway over the voters, as can be inferred from the Trinamool Congress sweeping all the four seats in West Bengal. It is no surprise that she is planning to test the waters in Goa when it goes to polls. Similarly, her counterpart in Andhra Pradesh still has the support of the voters. The victory of the YSR Congress Party in the reserved seat of Badvel shows that the Telugu Desam Party has a long way to go to overtake the ruling party. However, the BJP has made some progress in neighbouring Telangana, where it won a seat.

The Janata Dal (United) continues to enjoy the upper hand in Bihar despite the return of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav to the state after a long incarceration. Byelection results are often like straws in the wind. They indicate many things like how strong the wind is and in what direction it is blowing. In other words, they give political parties an idea of their popularity. The sensible among them use the results to take corrective measures so that they are prepared for the general elections whenever these are held. Others ignore them in the mistaken belief that they are already on the right path. Both need to know that the voters have a mind of their own and they cannot be taken for granted.

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Published on: Thursday, November 04, 2021, 02:30 AM IST
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