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7 Bypoll Results: 1 Lesson Each for BJP, Congress, AAP, AIMIM & Regional Parties

BJP won four of the bypolls, regional parties won three. There are crucial lessons for each in the run-up to 2024.

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The results for 7 Assembly seat bypolls announced on Sunday 6 November were a mixed bag, with the BJP winning four seats and regional parties winning three (one each for Rashtriya Janata Dal, Bharat Rashtra Samithi and Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).

Though bypolls don't always reflect any larger political trend, the results do carry important lessons for different political parties.

Here we list one lesson each for BJP, Congress, regional parties, AAP and AIMIM and one lesson to non-BJP parties in general.

AAP and AIMIM, though both regional parties, have been kept separately for the purpose of this article as they represent distinct political ambitions.

1. Lesson for BJP: Don't Underestimate Regional Parties

The biggest example of this is the by-election to the Munugode Assembly constituency in Telangana won by the BRS. The BJP thought it had it in the bag, especially after its victory in the Huzurabad bypoll last year and Dubbak in 2020.

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The BJP's formula was identical to Huzurabad - winning over a strong leader from another party, making him resign and then showing its strength in the bypoll.

In Huzurabad it had successfully done it through former TRS leader Eatala Rajender and was trying to replicate it in Munugode through sitting Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy. The party had even begun boasting that the margin in Munugode will be higher than Huzurabad. A great deal of resources were deployed to make this happen.

However, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi proved to be a wily opponent. From accusing BJP of transporting cash to the seat, to the alleged MLA purchase scandal, the BRS put BJP on the backfoot.
BJP won four of the bypolls, regional parties won three. There are crucial lessons for each in the run-up to 2024.
Nirmal: Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrashekhar Rao addresses during a rally ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Telangana

Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao's aggression surprised even the BJP.

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Another newly christened regional party to make its mark in these bypolls was Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray in the Andheri East constituency in Maharashtra. The BJP and its ally - Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena - first allegedly tried to prevent deceased Sena MLA Ramesh Latke's wife Rutuja Latke from contesting. Then the BJP fielded a candidate against her. But later it withdrew, citing support for the late MLA.

Rutuja Latke won by a huge margin of around 65,000 votes. In fact NOTA polled the second highest number of votes in the seat - 12806.

Then in Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal won the Mokama seat and came a close second in Gopalganj. Though it lost Gopalganj, its vote share increased dramatically compared to the 2020 Assembly polls. In 2020, the RJD-led alliance had allocated the seat to the Congress which got about 20 percent votes. The RJD managed to get double that in this bypoll.

The RJD hasn't won the seat in over 20 years so its performance is creditable.

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2. Lesson for Congress: Save Main Opposition Space Where You Can

The Congress didn't contest four of the seven seats that voted in these bypolls. The ones it did contest had an important lesson for it.

The message from both Munogode in Telangana and Dhamnagar in Odisha is the Congress' ceding space to the BJP.

Not being able to save its deposit in Munugode is disappointing for the party for a number of reasons.

First, the result further gave strength to the perception that BJP is emerging as the main Opposition to the ruling BRS in Telangana.

Second, the result is despite the fact that there has been a lot of hype around the Congress in the state, especially its state unit chief Revanth Reddy and chief strategist Sunil Kanugolu. A few questions could get raised at least around Kanugolu's performance.

Third, the Munugode campaign came at a time when the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi is passing through Telangana. Though the Yatra didn't pass through Munugode or adjoining areas, the party did hope that the Yatra may give it some benefit in the seat. But that clearly did not happen.

In fact the alleged MLA purchase scandal dominated much of the political discourse and not the Yatra.

The result in Odisha's Dhamnagar is on expected lines. The Congress has been declining in the state as a whole, and this seat in particular, for over a decade now. The party has failed to cross 10 percent votes in the last two elections and it has now slumped to just two percent.

In Odisha, the Congress has clearly lost its position as the main Opposition for some time now. It needs to work hard to ensure that it doesn't meet the same fate in Telangana.

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One state where it managed to assert this well was Haryana, where the party came second, with a vote share of 39 percent. The seat was won by Bhavya Bishnoi, son of Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi who recently defected to the BJP.

Bishnoi winning the seat isn't surprising. The Bhajan Lal family has been winning Adampur since 1968 despite changing parties multiple times. They have won the seat under the ticket of four different parties - Congress, Janata Party, Haryana Janhit Congress and now the BJP.

Congress seems to have captured almost the entire Jat vote at the expense of the INLD and despite JJP being a BJP ally. This bodes well for the party in the state.

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3. Lesson for Regional Parties: BJP is Always in the Game

BJP winning Dhamnagar in particular should serve as a warning to the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha. The BJP had wrested this seat from the BJD even in the 2019 Assembly elections so in that sense there is no loss of tally for the ruling party in Odisha. But the more BJP consolidates the anti-BJD vote, the trickier it would become for the latter.

The same lesson needs to be drawn by the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. The Gopalganj loss, despite the increase in vote share, does show that arithmetic alone can't guarantee victory.

They need to iron out chinks within the alliance and in their respective parties as well. Lalu Prasad's brother in law, Sadhu Yadav, is said to have played a role in the party's defeat.

Both Tejashwi Yadav and Nitish Kumar must understand that the BJP will take advantage of every little flank they leave exposed.

BJP won four of the bypolls, regional parties won three. There are crucial lessons for each in the run-up to 2024.
Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav during the 135th birth anniversary of first chief minister of Bihar Shri Krishna Singh, in Patna on Friday, October 21, 2022. (Photo:IANS/Twitter)

The BRS, too, should be careful. Its margin of victory in Munugode was narrow and there is clearly some anti-incumbency against the state government. The BJP will continue to deploy its vast resources to try and capture exploit that.

The 14 percent NOTA votes in Andheri East, too, are said to be the handiwork of the BJP. It does speak for the organisational capacity of a party that it can make NOTA get 14 percent votes just to prove a point.

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4. Don't Take Muslim Votes for Granted

The AIMIM polled over 7 percent votes in Bihar's Gopalganj and may have also contributed to the RJD's defeat. But the RJD really can't blame AIMIM for the loss.

Clearly there was something lacking in its performance in government that 7 percent voters - which could be about a little less than one-third of the Muslims in Gopalganj - chose to vote for the AIMIM instead of it.

Only last week a Muslim man was killed in Bihar in an alleged hate crime. Then in September a Muslim minor was kept in jail for days. So there has been some criticism of the Mahagathbandhan government on this front.

Also in Gopalganj, the Mahagathbandhan had been fielding a Muslim candidate for the past two elections. This time they fielded a Bania and may have lost some Muslim votes to the AIMIM and some Yadav votes to the BSP's Yadav candidate.

While it is fine to try and expand one's social coalition, it can't be done while taking one's core base, especially minorities, for granted thinking that they have no other option.

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5. Lesson for AIMIM: Pick Your Battles Wisely

Gopalganj brings a lesson for the AIMIM as well. Sure, the party may have taken some kind of revenge over the RJD for poaching four of its MLAs in Bihar. But it is also true that this wasn't a seat the AIMIM could have won at all. The Muslim population here is less than 30 percent and not 50 percent plus like the seats it had won in Seemanchal.

Therefore, it is clear that the AIMIM contested just to make its presence felt and to prove a point to the RJD.

While the 'B-Team' tag is just a lazy explanation by other parties, it is true that the Gopalganj result would be used by these parties in poll-bound Gujarat to tell Muslims that voting for AIMIM could help BJP.

BJP won four of the bypolls, regional parties won three. There are crucial lessons for each in the run-up to 2024.
Hyderabad: AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi with supporters during

In the end, it will be Muslims on the ground that will pay the price for which party comes to power - especially given how municipal authorities are using bulldozers against them.

Given such a hostile scenario, AIMIM may face pressure to be more selective in deciding where it contests from. More such results could harm its prospects in seats where it genuinely has a chance of winning.

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6. Lesson for AAP: Back to the Drawing Board in Haryana

After its win in Punjab, there was a great deal of buzz around the Aam Aadmi Party in neighbouring states such as Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In June this year, AAP managed to win the Ismailabad muncipality in Kurukshetra district and reportedly secured over 10 percent votes in the civic polls.

This was an encouraging sign for the party. But the Adampur bypoll results should come as a big disappointment for it. The party could get only 2.6 percent votes in the seat, despite running an intense campaign.

It seems that Kejriwal's state of origin doesn't have much of a vacuum for AAP. Like Himachal Pradesh, the resilience of Congress as an Opposition, is making it difficult for AAP to make inroads.

Also AAP doesn't seem to have figured out the caste dynamics of the state.

The Congress is clearly trying to consolidate Jat and Dalit votes, besides the support of the state's small Muslim minority. The BJP at the state level is mostly trying to consolidate non-Jats. INLD and JJP are both Jat dominated parties. It is not clear how AAP is pitching itself in Haryana. Kejriwal is a Bania as is AAP's Haryana in-charge Sushil Gupta. But the Bania community seems firmly with the BJP as of now.

(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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Topics:  Aam Aadmi Party   BJP   Congress 

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