It is always risky to read too much into by-election results of any kind, be it assembly or parliamentary. It is impossible to tell which way the political wind is blowing based on a few seats scattered across states. But an estimate can always be made at a macro level. A few pointers can be underlined about results of the just-concluded assembly by-elections in seven seats for six states. The BJP has won four seats. The TRS, RJD and Shiv Sena have won one each. The Congress has drawn a blank. The results clearly indicate the following:
One, the BJP's election machine is still going strong. The BJP has not only retained its seats in Bihar, in UP and in Odisha, but also snatched one in Haryana. In Bihar, after the breakup of the BJP and JD(U), this was the first election of what amounts to as BJP versus the rest. The Nitish Government is now supported by seven parties including the formidable RJD. It is true that the BJP had won this seat last time with more than 35,000 votes, but even so, its victory is important due the changed alliances. There is another reason for the RJD to worry. Asaduddin Owaisi's candidate, Abdul Salam, was also in the fray and got 12,214 votes. Without him, the Muslims would have as a bloc voted for the RJD which means it would have taken the seat. So Owaisi can create problems for the Nitish-RJD alliance not only in Muslim-dominated seats but also where victory is decided by a thin margin. Owaisi may have the ability to cost the ruling alliance a few seats.
In Odisha, the BJP has been trying to emerge as a serious challenger to Naveen Patnaik who has been winning assembly elections since 1998. His party, the BJD was expected to win the Dhampur by-election but it did not, despite Naveen Patnaik campaigning for the seat. Perhaps the sympathy factor created the BJP win as the seat was vacant due to the death of the BJP MLA; his son was given the ticket by the BJP.
One cannot read too much into the victory of the BJP candidate in Adampur in Haryana as the seat has been with former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal's family since 1968. This time, Bhajan Lal's grandson Bhavya Bishnoi was the BJP's candidate. His father Kuldeep Bishnoi recently defected to the BJP from the Congress and the seat was vacant due to his resignation.
But the BJP has given a clear warning to the TRS in Telangana. Although the BJP candidate, Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, lost the election in Munugode, the margin was narrow Rajagopal Reddy was a Congress MLA who had defected to the BJP. The Congress in this constituency could not save its deposit. The BJP has been leaving no stone unturned in Telangana to replace the Congress as the main Opposition party. After Karnataka, the BJP has sensed that it can replace the Congress in Telangana and emerge as a powerful force. The TRS knew that a victory in Munugode would allow the BJP to claim that the TRS is losing its grip on the state. Therefore, the TRS marshalled all its resources and deputed more than a dozen ministers and more than 50 MLAs in the constituency.
Two, there is a lesson for the Opposition that it cannot take voters for granted. The BJP under Modi is always in election mode, and it fights every election with a gladiatorial instinct. So Nitish-Tejashwi should realise that their combined might not be enough in 2024 parliamentary elections, a fact which many political analysts have been underlining. The BJP will put up a tough fight.
Three, the results show that the Congress has not learnt any lesson. Its pathetic show continues. Adampur and Munugode were held by the Congress, but it lost both. Munugode should be more worrisome as Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' passed through Telangana, and attracted a large crowd. Does it mean that without follow-up action, the Yatra is no guarantee for reanimating the Congress?
(Ashutosh is author of 'Hindu Rashtra' and Editor, satyahindi.com.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.