New Delhi: The kind of opposition unity displayed in Uttar Pradesh's Kairana seat that led to the BJP's defeat in the bypolls is a "serious setback", said senior party leader Chandan Mitra.
- If opposition unites, BJP has a really serious fight: Chandan Mitra
- BJP didn't pay adequate attention to sugarcane farmers, he said
- He also referred to other "mistakes" made by the party
The BJP's Hukum Singh had won in 2014, netting over 50 per cent of the vote share. But this time there was a four per cent swing away from the party that led to the defeat of his daughter who was pitted against a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate backed by the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.
"If the opposition unites, which they hadn't all this while, the BJP has a really serious fight on its hands in the run-up to 2019," Mr Mitra told NDTV.
In a constituency where sugarcane is the main cash crop for farmers, the RLD had raked up big time the issue of dues pending on sugar mills, cashing in on the disenchantment within the farming community.
Last year, ahead of the UP assembly polls that the BJP swept, the party had promised to ensure payment to farmers within two weeks of selling their produce.
"BJP did not pay adequate attention to the issue of sugarcane farmers. Farmers are very unhappy and it was palpable," admitted Mr Mitra.
On the eve of polling, at a public event in western UP's Baghpat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sought to allay concerns, saying the government was sensitive towards issues faced by sugarcane farmers and was working to resolve them.
Something has to be done so that farmers get a better price for their produce, said Mr Mitra.
He also referred to other "mistakes" made by the party, referring to the spike in fuel prices that has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition. After a daily hike in prices for 16 days, prices were slashed by one paisa a couple of days go. "That was a cruel joke," said Mr Mitra.
He said he was confident that the party leadership would take steps for course correction.
Better ally management ahead of next year's general elections was another issue flagged by the BJP leader. It comes against the backdrop of Chandrababu Naidu's TDP quitting the BJP-led coalition at the centre earlier this year and a constant war of words between the BJP and its oldest ally Shiv Sena.
The BJP has to realise that it may get get 300 or 330 seats but allies are crucial, reasoned Mr Mitra. "Why did the TDP leave? It was an important ally. Why is Shiv Sena making threatening noises? You need to examine that," he said.