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Bypoll Results: Strong CMs Win, Lessons for BJP & Cong. What's the Big Picture?

Except for the sweep in Assam, it was a poor result for the BJP, especially in HP, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

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Politics
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Bypoll Results: Strong CMs Win, Lessons for BJP & Cong. What's the Big Picture?
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The by-elections to the 29 Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats have not thrown up any major national-level trend.

It may not be correct to look for any big national trend because the incumbent party at the state level tends to have an advantage in bypolls, based on data from past elections analysed by The Quint.

However, in the current bypolls, a few broad trends have emerged.

Strong regional leaders across the party lines have come out on top – from West Bengal Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC), to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s CM in Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot of the Congress, Shiv Sena supremo and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala, Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma and Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

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According to psephologist and CVoter founder Yashwant Deshmukh, "Incumbent governments did everywhere well except in two states: Telangana and Himachal Pradesh. In both the states, there is a great deal of anger against the state government."

Coming to the two national parties, purely in terms of seats, the BJP's overall tally came down by one in the Lok Sabha while it gained three Assembly seats overall. The Congress' Lok Sabha tally increased by one and Assembly numbers fell by three.

However, the Congress may come out slightly happier than the BJP.

Except for Assam and to some extent Madhya Pradesh, it was a bad result day for the BJP as it suffered major reversals in Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

For the Congress, the results have been a mixed bag – good news from Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra but disappointment in Assam, Bihar, and Meghalaya.

Let's look at the results of some of the states in detail.

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West Bengal: Massive TMC Sweep, BJP Loses Deposits

The TMC won all four seats – Dinhata, Santipur, Khardaha and Gosaba – with massive margins. The average vote share of the party in the four seats was over 75 percent. The BJP could save its deposit in only Santipur while also losing two of the seats it had won in the Assembly polls – Dinhata and Santipur.

In Dinhata, which was vacated by central minister Nisith Pramanik, the BJP lost with an embarrassingly huge margin of 1.64 lakh votes. The party suffered a major defeat even in Pramanik's own booth.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) may draw some solace from its performance in Santipur and Khardaha as it was only marginally behind the BJP in terms of vote share. In the Assembly elections earlier in 2021, CPI-M had left Santipur for the Congress which could secure just 4.4 percent votes.

But CPI-M saved its deposit in the bypoll with a little under 20 percent votes, indicating that it managed to win back some of the votes it had lost to the BJP in the Assembly polls. Whether this helps the CPI-M recapture its base in other parts of the state remains to be seen.

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Assam: BJP Sweeps, Raijor Dal Displaces Congress in Upper Assam

The results are a big win for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the state as the BJP and its ally United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) swept all five seats that voted in the bypolls.

It is personally a victory for CM Himanta Biswa Sarma as three of the seats were won by candidates who defected from the Opposition Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) after the elections. Sarma is said to have played a key role in these defections.

The Congress had already fared badly in Upper Assam but now it has lost two more seats in the region – Mariani and Thowra – with its MLAs Rupjyoti Kurmi and Sushanta Burgohain winning after defecting to the BJP.

What's even more worrying for the Congress is that in both the seats, Akhil Gogoi's Raijor Dal has emerged as an important player. In Thowra, the party's candidate Dhairjya Konwar, a prominent activist, secured 27 percent of the votes, well ahead of the Congress candidate who lost his deposit.

In Mariani, Raijor Dal's Sanjib Gogoi got 17 percent votes, just marginally behind the Congress.

The Raijor Dal may be buoyed at the results and try to emerge as the main Opposition force in Upper Assam.

The only good news for the Congress is that it made gains in terms of vote share in Bhabanipur, which was earlier held by the AIUDF, whose MLA Phanidhar Talukdar won the bypoll after defecting to the BJP.

The results would also strengthen the hold of the UPPL in the Bodoland region as it retained Tamulpur and wrested Gossaigaon from the Bodoland People's Front (BPF).

This too is indirectly a win for Sarma as he was instrumental in the BJP's decision to dump the BPF and ally with the UPPL in the Bodoland region.

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Rajasthan: BJP Fails To Come Even Second in Either Seat

The results from the by-elections have come as a major win for the Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan.

The Congress has won both the seats – Dhariawad in Pratapgarh district and Vallabh Nagar in Udaipur district – with comfortable margins.

The BJP's performance has been disastrous as the party was pushed to fourth position in Vallabh Nagar and third in Dhariawad.

While Congress' Preeti Gajendra Singh Shaktawat won the seat, the BJP fell behind not just the Congress but also Udailal Dangi of Hanuman Beniwal's Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and Randhir Singh Bhinder of Janta Sena Rajasthan.

The BJP also suffered due to some infighting with the party rejecting former CM Vasundhara Raje's proposal to induct Bhinder. Raje may have been vindicated in the end.

The Congress also wrested tribal-dominated Dhariawad from the BJP, which was pushed to third position behind the Congress and an Independent candidate Thawarchand Damor. Thawarchand's case itself is interesting as he is a local tribal activist propped up by individual community members to bring their grievances into the political discourse.

The wins would strengthen Gehlot's position in the Assembly as well as from any possible rebellions within the Congress.

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Madhya Pradesh: Tough Fight Between BJP and Congress

Three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats voted in the bypolls in Madhya Pradesh. While the BJP won the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat and the Jobat and Prithvipur Assembly seats, the Congress was ahead in Raigaon. Except Khandwa, the parties ended up losing the seats that they had held, indicating some seat-level dissatisfaction.

The big picture from the state, however, is that while CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is still strong, the Congress is very much in the competition in the state. The party's vote share was about 45 percent, less than two percent behind the BJP.

If this trend continues, it could make the state a close contest in the next Assembly elections two years from now.

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Dadra and Nagar Haveli: Late MP's Wife Wins on Shiv Sena Ticket

The election to the Lok Sabha seat in the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was one of the most fascinating contests in the bypolls. The seat had fallen vacant due to the demise of Independent MP Mohan Delkar, who had died by suicide earlier this year.

Before his death, he had made a number of allegations against the BJP government at the Centre, especially current Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel who was earlier governing Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

The elections, in many ways, were centred around Delkar's allegations against the BJP. The late MP's wife Kalaben Delkar contested on a Shiv Sena ticket and defeated the BJP candidate with a sizeable margin.

Given the allegations by Delkar, the win is a political defeat for the BJP in the Union territory.

The result is a significant one in another way as it is the first Lok Sabha victory for the Shiv Sena outside Maharashtra.

With this, the party's tally in the Lok Sabha has gone up to 19.

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Himachal Pradesh: Major Win for Congress

The biggest win for the Congress has come from Himachal Pradesh, where the party has won one Lok Sabha seat and three Assembly seats.

Pratibha Singh, wife of former CM Virbhadra Singh, won from the Mandi Lok Sabha seat. The Congress also did well in the Assembly segment of current BJP CM Jairam Thakur that falls in the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency.

This win is significant for the Congress as it takes the party's tally in the Lok Sabha up to 53. Pratibha Singh will also now be the party's only MP in North India outside of Punjab and Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli.

The party also retained the Arki and Fatehpur Assembly seats while wresting Jubbal from the BJP.

Price rise had become a major factor in the Himachal Pradesh election and this contributed to the BJP's defeat. CM Jairam Thakur also blamed price rise for the party's defeat.

The results bode well for the Congress with HP going to polls in a year from now. The party would now be fancying its chances of capturing the state from the BJP, especially given how HP has been voting out incumbents for the past three decades.

The BJP's defeat has now triggered speculation on whether the party would now replace CM Jairam Thakur, the way it changed CMs in Gujarat, Karnataka, and Uttarakhand.

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Karnataka: One Each for Congress and BJP

The results were a mixed for the BJP and the Congress, who won a seat each – BJP winning Sindgi in Vijayapura district and Congress wresting Hangal in Haveri from the BJP. Sindgi had earlier been won by the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD-S), which performed abysmally in both seats, getting less than 5 percent of the votes.

The Congress' win in Hangal is significant as it is part of Haveri, the home district of CM Basavaraj Bommai, who represents the Shiggaon seat.

The win strengthens Congress as the main Opposition in the state and would give momentum to it in the run-up to the Assembly elections around 18 months from now.

The JD(S)' loss in Sindgi and low vote share in both the seats may compel the party to think differently and try and go for an alliance with either the Congress or the BJP.

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Meghalaya: NPP Gains at Congress' Expense

The results in the three Assembly seats in Meghalaya are a boost to CM Conrad Sangma whose National People's Party (NPP) won the Meghalaya Mawryngkneng and Rajabala seats, increasing its tally in the Assembly.

Both the seats were held by the Congress and the defeats would come as a blow to the party which is battling faction rivalries between leaders like Vincent Pala and Mukul Sangma.

The party had just managed to prevent Mukul Sangma from leaving and joining the TMC. But now the defeats in Meghalaya and Assam may be used by the TMC to create the impression of a "Congress decline in the Northeast" in order to woo disgruntled elements from the party.

Elections in Meghalaya are due in early 2023.

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Haryana: Chautala Wins but BJP Holds Its Ground

Haryana also witnessed a crucial bypoll to the Ellenabad Assembly constituency in Haryana's Sirsa district. The seat fell vacant after the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)'s Abhay Chautala resigned in protest against the central government's farm laws.

Though Chautala managed to win the seat, the result may give the BJP a reason to be happy. The party notched up a healthy vote share of almost 40 percent, giving Chautala a run for his money.

This despite the fact that the BJP is facing massive protests in the state due to the farm laws.

It does appear that the anti-farm law protests are dominated by Jats, who weren't with the BJP at the state level any way. On the other hand, the party has retained its base among non-Jat voters.

Chautala's win is also important because it means that the INLD will continue to get a chunk of Jat votes and the Congress won't be able to count on a complete consolidation.

The Congress got less than 15 percent vote in Ellenabad.

A consolidated non-Jat vote and divided Jat vote is good news for the BJP even with the defeat.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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