Seven Seats, Six States: What The By-Poll Results Mean For All The Parties Involved
While the BJP has consolidated its position across the board, the withering of the Congress looks set to continue.
The seven assembly by-elections which were conducted in half a dozen states on 6 November offer indicators on which way the political winds might be blowing across our land.
The principal beneficiary was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They consolidated their position across the board, retained three seats, gained one, and made strong surges in two, while tactically abstaining from the contest in Andheri East, in Mumbai.
In stark contrast, the withering of the Congress party looks set to continue.
They were wiped out in Telangana and Odisha, lost pole position in Haryana’s Adampur seat, didn’t even bother to contest in Uttar Pradesh, and left the fray to their allies in Bihar and Maharashtra.
And in their own way, every one of these by-elections has a story to tell.
1. 101-Gopalganj, Bihar
The BJP won this seat in 2020 when it was in alliance with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) or JD(U). But after Nitish Kumar broke with the BJP to form a fresh government with the Yadav family’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), there were doubts on whether the BJP might be able to hold its own.
In the end, the BJP won Gopalganj by the proverbial whisker, and a mere 1,794 votes. But this is not cause for heady celebration. The RJD lost only because 12,214 Muslim votes went to Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Also, very intriguingly, the bulk of the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) vote shifted to the RJD. That doesn’t happen too often. In fact, the AIMIM polled more than the BSP.
Nonetheless, the BJP has established a solid 40-plus per cent base here, and that is a stellar effort, primarily because they have managed to attract a sizeable component of the JDU vote. Also, the BJP still has a large pool of non-RJD-non-JD(U) votes to work on — over 11 per cent (BSP and ‘Others minus the AIMIM) — and that should give them some heart.
Bottom line: The political dynamics in Bihar will increasingly become a two-way fight between coalitions led by the BJP and the RJD, in which the JD(U) gets squeezed out.
2. 178-Mokama, Bihar
This is an RJD stronghold which went for a by-election because the sitting RJD MLA was disqualified, after being convicted in an arms case. So, it is no great surprise that the convict’s wife won on an RJD ticket.
However, the real story of Mokama is that the BJP, contesting here for the first time, polled over 42 per cent.
The party has, in effect, taken over the JD(U) vote base in this seat. Note how the RJD got roughly the same vote share in 2022 as last time.
Also, and this would be depressing news for Nitish Kumar, votes from the Paswan family’s Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), who split from the JDU in the 2020 assembly elections, have transferred neatly to their ally, the BJP.
And to compound the JD(U)’s discomfort, so have over 4 per cent from the ‘Others’.
Bottom line: These results reiterate an increasing bipolarity between coalitions led by the RJD and the BJP in Bihar, and Nitish Kumar losing out.
3. 47-Adampur, Haryana
This seat has been a bastion of the late Bhajan Lal’s family for ages. So, when his son Kuldeep Bishnoi left the Congress for the BJP, it was unsurprising that his son Bhavya won from here.
Interestingly, JNJP votes (of the Chautala family, another Haryanvi political dynasty founded by the late Devi Lal) have shifted fully to the BJP. It means that their alliance with the BJP continues intact.
This also means that headaches for the Congress’ Hooda family will only increase. In all probability, Bishnoi has chosen his son to retain the family seat in the state, so that he can go back to Parliament on a BJP ticket in 2024.
Hilariously, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) polled only under 3 per cent. This is after a long and voluble campaign, during which spurious surveys gave the AAP a win with 68 per cent of the vote share.
Political pundits would do well to keep this point in mind while they analyse the surveys being churned out in Gujarat.
Bottom line: this BJP win shaves some anti-incumbency off the Manohar Lal Khattar government, and will be useful when they seek a fresh provincial mandate in 2024.
4. 46-Dhamnagar, Odisha
When the BJP won this prestigious seat in 2019, it was said that the bells had finally begun to toll for dynast Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The 2022 by-election results reaffirm this.
The party has consolidated its position, and increased its vote base marginally. On the other hand, the Congress has been wiped out; it polled only 2 per cent.
Bottom line: these results mark the waning of the BJD, the gradual ascendancy of the BJP, and the erasure of the Congress from one more state in the country.
5. 139-Gola Gokrannnath, Uttar Pradesh
This was a solid win for the BJP in a straight contest with the Samajwadi Party (SP). The key points to be noted here are:
The BJP has increased its vote share by attracting the bulk of the BSP’s votes. With the ‘Others’ at just 3.6 per cent, this seat, like so many across the state, is now intensely bipolar, with the advantage resting firmly with the BJP.
Even as Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra wends its way northwards, the point to be noted is that the Congress did not even bother to contest this by-election in India’s largest, and politically important, state.
Bottom line: the BJP remains the party to beat in UP, and Mayawati has her work cut out, if she does indeed harbour visions of somehow replacing the SP as the principal opposition party in the state.
6. 166-Andheri East, Maharashtra
This was a mockery of an election. Voter turnout was just 31 per cent, and the ruling alliance of Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction and the BJP chose not to put up a candidate. That took the wind out of the Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray faction’s sails.
Some BJP supporters were miffed at the no-contest, but giving the Thackeray faction a bye is actually a good tactical decision, because it allows the BJP and Shinde to focus on the far more important Mumbai corporation elections due soon, without the usual halla.
Bottom line: In an epic show of peak trolling, 15 per cent of those Mumbaikars who voted, chose NOTA as an option. There’s a message in that for the Thackeray faction.
7. 93-Munugode, Telangana
In stark contrast to the listless by-election in Andheri, 93 per cent of Munugode turned out to cast their ballots. It was a blistering campaign by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) against the BJP’s candidate who quit the Congress and vacated his seat, thereby necessitating a by-election.
The TRS won in the end by a small margin, with the lead excitingly changing hands in some rounds, but not before the Congress lost its deposit and the BJP established itself as the primary contender to the TRS in the state.
Bottom line: BJP supporters shouldn’t get too carried away by the verdict. There's still some distance to go before the BJP replaces the INC, and then displaces the TRS. Still, this is now only a matter of time.
All data from Election Commission of India website; figures are provisional.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.