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Bypoll lessons

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Bypoll Lessons. Certain credence is given to three warnings, the third being the most serious, if not final. After recent losses in Uttarakhand and...

The message to BJP and the Modi Government is to wake up and focus on curbing prices of essential commodities. The one to the Congress is to shake itself out of its hapless slumber, organise itself and give the nation a strong and purposeful political opposition

Certain credence is given to three warnings, the third being the most serious, if not final. After recent losses in Uttarakhand and then in Bihar and Karnataka, the BJP, ruling at the Centre and in most of the key states, some of which are due for Assembly polls soon, has received the third in full measure. In the just-concluded round of Assembly bypolls, it lost 23 of the 33 seats in nine states. Some of them were snatched from its kitty. The combined signal is that the party is no longer invincible. Whether or not the “Modi wave” that yielded a landslide parliamentary victory in April-May is on the wane may be debatable, but it is certain that the party cannot perform well without his campaign.

That the new BJP chief Amit Shah also chose not to campaign in by-elections indicates that the party has remained smug about the previous two debacles. More significantly, its strident inter-community campaign, dubbing stray cases of Hindu-girl-Muslim-boy marriages as “love jihad” has scared away the voter, especially in Uttar Pradesh. While Shah talked about it, Modi’s silence was taken as its endorsement. Its most strident advocate, lawmaker Mahant Adityanath, has brazenly stated that the BJP lost because he was not allowed to campaign the whole hog.

By accident or design, defending the BJP’s debacle at the national headquarters was left to the party’s two Muslim faces, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain. Both happen to have Hindu wives. The party needs to roll back this sensitive and dangerous political plank. The BJP debacle in UP, where “love jihad” issue was played out pre-polls, should calm nerves across the country.

Full marks to Mulayam Singh Yadav. His Samajwadi Party ruling in UP fought with determination. Yadav wisely withdrew controversial minister Azam Khan from the campaign to avoid a counter-communal retort. And fuller marks to Mayawati for wisely seating out and allowing a direct contest between her two rivals. The vote got polarised, helping Yadav to defeat the BJP plans.

The BJP’s solitary gain comes from West Bengal. Although Mamata Banerjee rules the roost despite numerous controversies, the BJP has stunned Didi by opening its account with south Basirhat, a constituency with a significant Muslim electorate. For a party that last held a West Bengal Assembly seat in 1999, this is an important advance after winning two Lok Sabha seats in May.

The BJP had swept Rajasthan and Gujarat in the Lok Sabha polls. Its losses in the by-elections, and that too at the hands of a demoralised Congress should come as a surprise to all. The message to BJP and Modi Government is to wake up and focus on curbing prices of essential commodities. The one to the Congress is to shake itself out of its hapless slumber, organise itself and give the nation a strong and purposeful political opposition.

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