Mixed bag: On bypoll results

Bypoll results hold lessons for the centralising politics of the BJP and the Congress

Reading too much into bypoll results is fraught with risks, but some broad points are noteworthy. Taken together, the results show that the Opposition is alive and kicking, but still devoid of a national narrative, programme or leadership. This set of byelections may not signal any consequential change in the national mood — H.P., which gave a drubbing to the BJP, has only four Lok Sabha seats, while in Bihar, BJP ally, the JD(U), retained both Assembly seats. The polls show that leadership at the State-level matters, and this may be bad news for the BJP that has increasingly centralised power and sought to undermine strong regional leaders. In Karnataka, B.S. Yediyurappa’s removal as CM appears to have come with a cost; in Assam, and other northeastern States, the imprint of Himanta Biswa Sarma is unmistakable in the impressive performance of the BJP; in Madhya Pradesh the credit for the party’s victories goes to CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan; and in Rajasthan the extent of its defeat can be attributed to the lack of regional leadership. The massive scale of the TMC’s performance in West Bengal and the corresponding rout of the BJP prove the former’s complete grip over the State, and the latter’s continuing struggle to understand it. The party was tamed in the Assembly election earlier this year, and its agenda and approach continue to be distant from the thinking of the Bengali. As for the Congress, what matter more are the defeats in M.P. and Telangana, and not the victories in H.P. and Rajasthan.

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