In results that can set the tone for the 2019 general elections, the BJP on Wednesday received a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar losing four of the five seats, including the prestigeous Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies, after non-BJP parties teamed up in alliances against the saffron party in the two states.
The BJP also lost the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad assembly seat while scoring a consolation win in Bhabhua assembly seat in Bihar. The results in both the states triggered calls for a Grand Alliance – a la Bihar – all across India to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.
After sweeping the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and the assembly elections last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced formidable rivals in the form of Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP who stitched a last minute alliance in the by-polls. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati had announced the backing of her party for SP candidates in both the constituencies in return for a SP support to her party candidate in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections.
The BJP lost Gorakhpur seat to the SP by a margin of 21,961 votes. SP candidate Pravin Kumar Nishad got 4,56,437 votes over his nearest BJP rival Upendra Dutt Shukla who secured 4,34,476 votes. Congress candidate Sureetha Kareem polled 18,844 votes.
Yogi Adityanath, who had represented Gorakhpur seat in the Lok Sabha for five times, winning the last elections in 2014 with a margin of 3.13 lakh votes, resigned from the seat after he was became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Before him, his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath was MP from the seat for two terms, in 1991 and 1993.
In the Phulpur constituency, which was once represented by first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP candidate Kaushalendra Singh by a margin of 59,613 votes.
The winner polled 3,42,796 votes while BJP candidate got 2,83,183 votes. Former mafia don-turned politician Ateeq Ahmed secured 48,087 votes while the Congress’s Manish Mishra polled 19,334 votes.
The SP has been the runner-up on Gorakhpur seat many times before, while it had won the Phulpur seat four times since 1996. BJP won Phulphur Lok Sabha seat for the first time in 2014 when (now) Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya won by a margin of over three lakh votes.
In 2014, BJP and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats and 325 out of 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.
In the neighbouring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) dealty a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally JD-U headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.
The RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh by over 60,000 votes in Araria.
In Jehanabad assembly constituency, Suday Yadav of RJD defeated Janata Dal-United candidate Abhiram Sharma by 35,036 votes while BJP’s Rinki Pandey worsted Sambhu Patel of the Congress, a RJD ally, by 15,000 votes in Bhabua assembly constituency.
It was a direct fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Grand Alliance of the RJD-Congress in Bihar, a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha battle.
With the original Grand Alliance having come apart as the JD-U deserted it and joining hands with the BJP, there was a lot at stake for everyone in the by-elections: the RJD, JD-U, BJP and Congress.
Workers of SP and RJD celebrated across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.
At the Bihar Assembly premises, RJD legislators played Holi, splashing each other with colour powder.
Elsewhere, RJD workers beat drums and raised slogans hailing Lalu Prasad, who has been jailed for corruption, and his son Tejashwi Yadav, who asked opposition leaders to join hands at the national level to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.
The balloting in Jehanabad and Bhabua followed the death of RJD and BJP legislators respectively. The Araria Lok Sabha seat became vacant after the death last year of Mohammad Taslimuddin, the RJD MP.
The RJD fielded Sarfaraz Alam — son of Taslimuddin and a legislator of the ruling JD-U. Last month, he left the JD-U and quit the Assembly to join the RJD.
He is a former legislator from Jokihat in Araria district.