A day after the declaration of results of the Uttar Pradesh assembly bypolls, in which the Congress failed to win any of the seven seats, the party drew comfort from its showing in two constituencies where it ended up as the runner-up.
Congress candidates Arti Bajpai in Bangarmau and Kripa Shankar in Ghatampur came second after the BJP in the bypolls.
"There may not be a tectonic shift towards the party in the assembly bypolls, but there is a gradual and visible shift among the voters in the state towards the Congress," UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh claimed.
"We are number two at two places compared to the BSP, which finished at number two only in Bulandshahr," he told PTI on Wednesday.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress was third in Ghatampur. In Bangarmau, it had then extended support to the SP, whose candidate finished second.
The ruling BJP has retained six of the seven seats and the Samajwadi Party hung on to the one it held before the November 3 bypolls were called.
The by-elections were held against the backdrop of a campaign by the opposition --- particularly the Congress -- over the law and order situation in the Bharatiya Janata Party-run state.
AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra repeatedly attacked the Yogi Adityanath government over the Hathras case in which a Dalit woman died after alleged gang-rape.
Compared to 2017, the BJP vote share dropped slightly in four of the six constituencies it won.
But it still bagged 36.73 per cent of the votes polled in the seven constituencies, compared to a meagre 7.53 per cent which went in favour of the Congress.
The SP's vote share in the bypolls was 23.61 per cent and that of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party 18.97 per cent.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad's Azad Samaj Party contested from Bulandshahr to test its electoral popularity. Its candidate got the third spot there with a vote share of 6.69 per cent, just a shade below the Congress average across the seven seats.
The BJP vote share dropped in Bangarmau, Deoria, Ghatampur and Tundla, and was close to its 2017 performance in Naugawan. Its share improved in Bulandshahr.
The Samajwadi Party won Malhani, retaining its seat in the bypolls. It got 35.45 per cent of the votes in this constituency, improving its past performance by two percentage points.
This was despite an improvement in the vote share of its main rival, independent candidate Dhananjay Singh. He got 33.22 per cent of the votes this time, compared to 23.37 per cent votes in 2017, when he contested for the same seat as the Nishad party nominee.
The BSP's best performance this time was in Bulandshahr, where its candidate finished second, the same spot it reached in 2017.
In 2017, the SP and the Congress fought together under their seat-sharing agreement for Uttar Pradesh.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)