Long before the final results for the Dadra and Nagar Haveli Lok Sabha bypoll were declared on Tuesday, the Shiv Sena, after taking a big lead, rather pompously declared that the road to Delhi would pass through the little Union Territory, meaning it would be khela hobe in 2024, with the opposition parties ready to challenge the BJP’s electoral dominance. That may be premature but the 32 bypoll results gave the BJP reasons to introspect and worry. In election-bound Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, both Hindi-speaking states that are natural habitats of the BJP, the party was trumped by a Congress that has been rudderless since the heavy defeat in the 2014 general elections. In West Bengal, just six months after the party made a high-pitch attempt to conquer the state, the BJP was crushed under the relentless Trinamool Congress juggernaut. Besides, it failed to retain a seat in Karnataka despite vigorous campaigning by new Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. The saving grace came from Madhya Pradesh and three states in the Northeast, where the BJP and its allies did exceedingly well. But the party will take little heart from the win in the Northeast and even Huzurabad in Telangana. That is because unlike in the Hindi heartland, where the BJP’s politics is steeped in the Hindutva ideology, it does not have an organic presence and appeal in other regions, one reason why it struggles to expand its footprint in the south, West Bengal and Odisha. This is why its setback in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan will be of particular concern.
But for the opposition, one swallow does not make a summer. The BJP is still a powerful force that would be hard to beat even in the Assembly elections early next year. As long as the saffron party can ward off any challenge to its traditional support base in central India while profiting from strategic alliances in its weak areas, the opposition’s hopes of dislodging it will remain a pipe dream. The BJP also knows that opposition unity is littered with bloated egos and competing prime ministerial ambitions of the likes of Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, et al., making its job easier.