NEW DELHI: In a surprise of sorts in by-elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress bagged Deoband while the BJP wrested Muzaffarnagar, both communally sensitive constituencies from the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) which suffered defeat in two of the three seats it held. But the Congress success was limited to UP where it has been an also-ran for over a decade now.
The party suffered a jolt in Karnataka where it lost two of the three seats in the assembly by-elections. Worse still, it lost Harlakh constituency in Bihar to Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, a BJP/NDA ally. This is the first defeat of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress coalition since it won power in the state under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Punjab’s ruling dispensation, Akali Dal, which is seen to be losing ground, managed to win the by-election in Khadoor Sahib against an independent candidate. The Congress did not put up a candidate apparently on the advice of poll strategist Prashant Kishore who has been roped in by Captain Amrinder Singh to manage the party’s assembly polls. In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena won the by-poll, whereas in Telangana, the TRS continued its winning streak and in Madhya Pradesh, the seat remained with the BJP. In UP, the SP retained Bikapur, Faizabad. In all, by-elections took place for 12 seats across eight states.
UP, which is headed for Assembly elections next year, handed out a drubbing for the Akhilesh government when the SP lost in Muzaffarnagar and Deoband. In Deoband, the seat of Islamic religious school, Darul Uloom, the Congress worsted the SP when its candidate Mavia Ali defeated Meena Rana. The opposition BJP in Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due in 2018, got the better of the ruling Congress in a virtual direct fight when it retained Hebbal seat in Bangalore. The results in Karnataka are seen as a blow to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah considering the fact that the Congress had invested heavily in the contest. The grand alliance in Bihar suffered a setback when Sudhanshu Shekhar, a candidate of the RLSP headed by Upendra Singh Kushwaha, defeated his Congress rival Mohammad Shabir by a margin of 18,650 votes.
Dealing a blow to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, the ruling BJP won the Maihar Assembly seat with party nominee Narayan Tripathi defeating the main opposition party’s Manish Patel by a margin of 27,544 votes. Tripathi secured 82,703 votes while Patel polled 55,159 votes. The outcome came as a double jolt for Congress as Tripathi, after winning the seat in 2013 Assembly polls, had quit the party to join the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Later, he resigned which necessitated the by-poll. The victory came as a morale-booster for the BJP after it conceded to the Congress the Jhabua Lok Sabha seat in a by-poll shortly after the drubbing in the Bihar Assembly elections, which analysts then took as a sign of declining fortunes of the ruling saffron party in the state.
In the neighbouring Maharashtra, ruling alliance partner Shiv Sena retained the Palghar Assembly seat as its candidate Amit Ghoda defeated his nearest Congress rival Rajendra Gavit by a margin of 18,948 votes in a keen contest. In Punjab, which also goes to polls next year, the ruling SAD won the by-poll to Khadoor Sahib Assembly seat. Congress and AAP had stayed out of the contest. Tripura saw the ruling CPM winning the Birganj Assembly by-election in Gomati district. The Congress got only 1,231 votes and its deposit was forfeited.