In a woeful Wednesday for the BJP, the party faced one of its most humiliating defeats in the recent times as the saffron party candidates lost not one but three Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The party also lost in its bastion and home constituency of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who had represented this seat for record five terms.
The defeat in Gorakhpur was significant also because the BJP significantly lost its number of votes compared to what the party had received in 2014 and before. The Samajwadi Party’s Praveen Kumar Nishad defeated the BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla by over 21,000 votes. The BJP has never lost this seat since 1989 with Adityanath’s guru Mahant Avedyanath being elected from here thrice and the chief minister himself for five times.
In Phulpur, the Lok Sabha seat that the state’s deputy chief minister, Keshav Prasad Maurya, won with a huge margin in 2014, too was wrested by the Samajwadi Party candidate, Nagendra Patel, who defeated his BJP rival by 59,613 votes.
In Bihar too, the RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP’s Pradip Singh by 61,988 votes. While Sarafaraz Alam received 5,09, 334 votes, BJP’s Pradip Singh could only get 4,47,346 votes. This despite the fact that both the BJP and the JDU were fighting the Araria bypolls in alliance with each other. Alam’s vote share was significantly higher than his father Md. Taslimuddin, whose death had necessitated the bypoll here. In 2014, Taslimuddin had received 4,07,978 votes, the BJP candidate polled 2,61,474 votes, while the JDU, which had contested alone then, got 2,21,769 votes.
On Wednesday, votes polled by the JDU-BJP cobine were at least 40,000 less than what the two parties had received in 2014 even though Alam increased his vote tally by at least one lakh. The victory in Araria also indicated that the RJD-Congress alliance had a significant edge over the BJP-JDU combine and if this trend continues, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have a lot to worry for 2019 general elections.
Similarly, the success of the BSP-SP alliance in UP bypolls amply indicated that the BJP was no match to the opposition in the event of they contesting the elections together. If the Congress was to join hands with the SP and the BSP, the equation in Uttar Pradesh could further deteriorate for the saffron party next year. In 2014, the BJP had won 73 out of 80 seats in the state, while riding on the Modi’s popularity crest.
In his first comments post declaration of results, Adityanath blamed his party’s ‘over-confidence’ for the defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. He told news agency ANI, “Ek bemel gathbandhan in logon dwara kiya gaya… usko samajhne mein kahin na kahin kami rahi. Aur atiatmavishwas iska karan hai… Ati-atmavishwas mein rehne ke bajaye hum sab logon ke liye yeh dono chunav sabak hai.”
The SP chief and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, thanked the BSP supremo Mayawati for the support in the elections even though he evaded questions on whether the two parties will go into the next year’s Lok Sabha polls together. He later went to meet Mayawati at her residence in Lucknow to personally express his gratitude.
Yadav also tweeted, “Results declared today are historic and revolutionary. This is a reply from those who unite to those who do negative politics of division. This is the beginning of a grand win in 2019.”
Many believe that the BJP’s humiliating defeat in the bypolls particularly in Gorakhpur was also because of the chief minister’s utter insensitivity towards the deaths of hundreds of children due to stoppage in oxygen’s supply last year despite the city being the hometown of Adityanath. An investigation by Janta Ka Reporter had revealed how his government had punished innocent officials while taking no action against the real culprits. (You can read that expose here). It seems voters in Adityanath’s citadel chose to cut the supply of oxygen for him and his party in an otherwise BJP bastion within one year of giving his party a historic mandate.