Gorakhpur-Phulpur bypolls: BJP gets reality check ahead of 2019 elections?

2014: 73 seats out of 80, 2017: 325 seats out of 403. These were the number of seats that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won in 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly polls respectively. The shocking results in the bypolls of Gorakhpur and Phulpur have changed the political landscape not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in India. The bypolls were deemed necessary after Yogi Adityanath (Gorakhpur) and Keshav Prasad Maurya (Phulpur) became chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively and it was a given that both these Lok Sabha seats will remain with the BJP.

So, what has changed over the last one year in Uttar Pradesh and over three and half years at the Centre? After the humongous victory of the saffron party in both state as well as Centre, BJP was in full form and was winning state elections after elections (governments in 22 states) and was still believing that with PM Narendra Modi’s charismatic leadership it will remain unbeaten.

But, BJP strategists didn’t factor in the unlikely alliance of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati coming together to change the political discourse. Both these regional heavyweight leaders were still smarting from the last year’s humiliating assembly polls defeat and joined hands to stop BJP’s winning run. During the campaign Adityanath as usual used crude language and had compared leaders of these two parties with snake and mongoose.

Narendra Modi might be the best orator and a great speaker, but has not delivered much for the past couple of years and people’s lives has been greatly affected by ill-timed policies such as demonetisation and GST. Modi continues to hammer the point about development and ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, but his government’s track record has been reaching a new low in recent times.

Now, coming to the chief minister of India’s most populous state i.e. Uttar Pradesh (population of 22 crore, more than that of Pakistan) Yogi Adityanath, the self-proclaimed priest’s record has been abysmal over the past one year. Adityanath has been a polarising figure and is mainly in the news for religious conflicts, Love Jihad theory, anti-Romeo squad, beef ban, the creation of Ram temple and not for development and growth of all sections and prosperity. UP CM had also become BJP’s chief vote campaigner with addressing rallies in Kerala, Karnataka and in hindsight it might have helped him if he had stayed in Uttar Pradesh and minded his own business.

The worrying thing about BJP losing Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat is that it was BJP’s citadel and Adityanath had been MP for five times since 1998 and BJP had not lost this seat since 1989. As per Phulpur, it was not BJP’s strong suit, but with two heavyweight politicians losing their seats, it sends a very negative and depressing message. If we use cricket’s analogy then it’s like losing your opening batsmen for first ball ducks.

The recent bypolls held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab have confirmed one thing that voter is getting disillusioned with PM Modi and his policies. India wants to change and its time that PM Modi and his various chief ministers including Adityanath have to walk the talk on development and only development. Uttar Pradesh bypolls of Gorakhpur and Phulpur mean a great deal in the larger scheme of things. If BJP loses Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh then the writing is on the wall for RSS-inspired BJP and PM Modi’s dream of New India before 2022 might not come true if he loses in 2019.

Post Script: Even though opposition had a lot to celebrate after winning Uttar Pradesh and Bihar bypolls, Congress suffered yet another rout. Congress candidates lost deposits in both Gorakhpur and Phulpur and couldn’t open its account in Bihar. Bihar and UP constitute 120 Lok Sabha seats and if Congress wants to stay relevant in 2019 then something has to give. BJP no doubt is facing double anti-incumbency and is losing momentum rapidly. If Congress doesn’t get its act together then third front formation might not even include India’s grand old party.

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