By poll blues hit BJP in UP as voters give thumbs-up to opposition unity

Lucknow: With a resurgent and united opposition on Thursday wresting both Kairana Lok Sabha seat and the Noorpur Assembly seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party has been hit by poll blues worst in the recent past.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)’s Tabassum Hasan defeated BJP’s Mriganka Singh by a margin of 44,618 votes and Naeem Ul Hasan of the Samajwadi Party (SP) snatched the sitting seat of the BJP by 5,678 votes.

Senior leaders, who till Thursday morning were laughing off at the talks of BJP’s impending drubbing in face of a united opposition, were by evening ducking direct questions and taking recourse to the beaten track of “we will take stock”.

A senior minister in the Yogi Adityanath government told IANS: “It’s high time the party woke up to the writing on the wall.”

He added that the promises made to people in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the 2017 state assembly elections, both in which the BJP swept, were apparently not being kept and this was leading to the “humiliating back-to-back defeats in the bypolls”.

There have been five bypolls ever since the BJP government took over the reins of most populous and politically most crucial state in the country, but it has lost four. Barring Akbarpur in Kanpur Rural, the ruling saffron camp has lost Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Kairana and Noorpur. This comes as a body blow to the party which just a year back won 323 seats in a 403-member state assembly.

What makes the successive defeats stand out even more is the fact that the first two parliamentary seats that it lost were earlier represented by incumbent Chief Minister Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. Adityanath had in fact won Gorakhpur for five straight terms.

In Kairana and Noorpur, results for which were declared on Thursday, too, the seats were not only held by the BJP but it had even fielded family members of its late lawmakers to ensure their victory.

They tried their best to taste victory right from the “Jinnah’s portrait at AMU” controversy to trying to play up the traditional rivalry between Jats and Muslims in the western UP region.

However, going by the results, all these tricks failed miserably and a united opposition brought down the aura of invincibility created around the BJP. Plush with its long-delayed win, RLD leader Jayant Chowdhary lost no time in claiming that they had “successfully halted the chariot of hate of the BJP” in Kairana.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, too, termed the bypoll results as “the defeat of those who do not believe in democracy”. He said that people who made tall promises like clearance of cane arrears in 14 days and loan waiver for farmers have now been punished by voters for their falsehood.

A BJP general secretary, though refusing to see this as a “trailer for things to come in 2019”, said that the party had been “outsmarted by the opposition who not only got their caste matrix correct but also brushed aside long-standing differences to halt the Modi juggernaut”.

“It is to their credit that they have pulled these victories and am sure our party’s think tank would find a solution to this new-found bonhomie in the opposition camp,” he said requesting anonymity.

Sources in the ruling party told IANS that while an immediate crackdown on the state unit, ministers and officials might not be in the offing, a “covert operation to fix things will certainly be rolled out soon”.

With these defeats, winnability and the star power of the monk-turned-Chief Minister has also come under shroud, say insiders.

“Though his leadership might not be in question immediately, he has certainly lost the aura and he will have to deliver on the agenda of good governance or he is on the Uma Bharti way,” said a political observer.