LUCKNOW: Four back-to-back defeats in bypolls for the BJP which romped home with a mammoth majority just 14 months ago in Uttar Pradesh is a rude wake-up call for the saffron party which is eyeing 50 per cent vote share in the politically most crucial state in 2019. However, when the party’s war room veterans reach to the drawing board to chalk out the strategy to take on a united Opposition, there will have some positive takeaways even in the gloom of Kairana and Noorpur losses. To begin with, BJP’s vote share has increased at both the places when compared with 2017 Assembly elections results.
At the same time, its vote share, as well as total votes polled, has increased in Noorpur Assembly constituency as compared to 2017 Assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the bypoll, BJP candidate Avani Singh lost narrowly despite securing more than 47 per cent votes. Her husband, late Lokendra Singh, had won in 2017 despite polling just a little over 39 per cent votes. Even in 2014, when the Modi wave was sweeping the state, the party’s MP from Bijnor had polled much lesser — 41.8 per cent — votes from Noorpur segment.
So, if there was no Modi wave for the BJP this time, there was not a wave against it either. Party chief Amit Shah’s target is to secure 50 per cent vote share in 2019. In these bypolls, the party got 46 per cent in Kairana and 47 per cent in Noorpur — enough to secure victory in a triangular contest. But the saffron party was done in by the might of a united Opposition in a highly bipolar contest in the bypolls. Hence, the message that has emerged for the Opposition is that pre-poll alliance is the only way forward to stop the BJP juggernaut.
If one analyses the 2014 Lok Sabha election results, the combined performance of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress and the RLD was better than the BJP on at least 55-60 seats. If all these parties go hand in hand in 2019, chances of a 2014 repeat for the BJP would be bleak. It may find its tally restricted to somewhere around 25 in UP.
However, the BJP may take solace in the fact that it has emerged as a strong single force in the state after remaining at a distant number three after SP and BSP for over a decade-and-a-half in. Also, the fact that party has been able to improve its vote share roughly by 8 per cent in both Kairana and Noorpur compared to 2017 is a silver lining that could help its preparation strategy for the mega test in 2019.
Kairana was particularly demographically hostile for the party. With 40 per cent Muslims, an equally strong presence of Jats, a traditional RLD vote bank, and a sizeable number of Jatavs (a caste BSP supremo Mayawati belongs to) who have traditionally been opposed to the BJP, it was already a hopeless scenario for the saffron party and tailor-made for the success of the Opposition alliance. Yet, the fact that Mriganka polled more than 46 per cent of total votes underlines that all is not lost for the BJP.