Bypoll Results Not People’s Verdict on Note Ban, Wait Till UP 2017
MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan  celebrates the party’s victory in the Shahdol Loksabha and Nepa Nagar Assembly by-elections, in Bhopal on Tuesday. (Photo: PTI)
MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan celebrates the party’s victory in the Shahdol Loksabha and Nepa Nagar Assembly by-elections, in Bhopal on Tuesday. (Photo: PTI)

Bypoll Results Not People’s Verdict on Note Ban, Wait Till UP 2017

The BJP retained the Shahdol Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh in the bypoll held on Tuesday but its vote share has shrunk considerably (-11.1%) over the corresponding figure in 2014, when the party's nominee won by about 2.4 lakh votes. Is the substantial fall in the BJP's vote share attributable to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to demonetise two high-value currencies?

BJP retained the three seats it won in previous polls and snatched a seat each from Congress in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in line with its increased outreach in north- eastern India.

The outcome of these polls was eagerly awaited as these are the first elections held post the note ban. Some people see these elections as a referendum on Modi’s fight against black money.

While surveys showed that a majority of the public is supporting the ban of old currency notes, almost the entire opposition has united and disrupted proceedings in both houses of Parliament, demanding a rollback and an apology.

Never in Indian history have rich people shown so much concern for the poor, neither the poor have been so happy at the misery of rich (ill-gotten wealth).

Good News for BJP

  • In the Nepanagar Assembly seat in MP, BJP almost doubled its victory margin to 42,198 votes (Source: ANI) vs 22,718 in 2013 assembly elections
  • BJP gained Biathalangso assembly in Assam from Congress by 16,500 votes. the INC candidate had won the seat earlier this year by 9,500 votes
  • BJP candidate Dasanglu Pul won the bypoll from Hayuliang assembly seat in Arunachal Pradesh, with a 54.2 percent vote share.
  • BJP made massive inroads in the north-eastern state of Tripura, a Left bastion. It emerged as the runner-up in the Barjala assembly seat (35 percent vote share), while recording a better performance than the Congress in Khowai (7 percent vote share against the INC’s 2 percent).

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)
  • BJP has reasons to cheer in Bengal as well. It emerged runner-up in Cooch Behar. With a weakening Left, the BJP smells a chance here to emerge as the principal opposition party in the next five-10 years
Figure in lakhs. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Figure in lakhs. (Photo: The Quint)
  • Congress recorded massive losses and could retain only one seat out of the four it held previously.

Bad News for BJP

  • In both the Lok Sabha seats where BJP won, Shahdol and Lakhimpur, the BJP lost vote share and its victory margins shrunk.
  • BJP’s victory margin in the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat bypoll declined from 2.9 lakh votes in 2014 to 1.9 lakh votes in the bypoll, with Congress gaining 7.16 percent of the vote share. The swing in favour of Congress in Shahdol is 11 percent.
(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)
  • Trinamool Congress, which is vehemently opposing the demonetisation move, won both the Lok Sabha seats with huge margins.
  • The Left, despite weakening nationally, retained and gained one seat in Tripura, halting BJP’s entry in the state.

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

Results Not a Validation of Demonetization Plan

Though the results show a gain for BJP (5 versus 3), it would not be prudent to say that it’s a validation of Modi’s demonetization plan because of following reasons:

  1. Elections were held within 10 days of announcement of the move on 8 November 2016. This is too short a period for people to make a final judgement about the merits / demerits of the case especially when PM Modi has asked for 50 days till 30 December, 2016 for things to normalize.
  2. Mamta’s Trinamool Congress which has vehemently opposed the plan and took to the streets also retained its three seats in Bengal by bumper margins.
  3. Left Front which is also against the note ban move retained its dominance over Tripura, retaining one and snatching another seat from Congress.

The above shows that local issues also played a role in these elections and demonetization was not the topmost issue in minds of voters.

UP Elections Still the Big Haul

To sum up, the results show a gain for BJP, especially in the north-east. However, claiming people have given the thumps up to demonetisation would be a bit premature. Saying that people are against demonetisation since Mamata also recorded big wins would be equally wrong. That said, this week is crucial for the BJP government to ease supply side issues and reduce inconvenience and grievances of the people.

Consumption and growth rate is going to be hit (by how much is a big question mark). It’s the sowing season and farmers need liquidity to buy seeds and fertilizers. Any lapses here could also impact the agriculture produce of next year.

Therefore, the elections of UP to be held early next year are very important for BJP. By that time the actual effects of the plan will start panning out and would impact positively or negatively BJP’s chances.

If Modi manages to show a big haul of black money (represented by high amount of 500/1,000 notes which are not deposited back in the banking system), uses the profits for one-time bonanza of Rs 5,000/10,000 in bank accounts of Jan Dhan account holders, waives off farmer loans and gives tax sops to middle class, these measures could negate the inconvenience caused to people. The verdict on demonetization is not out yet, over to the UP elections!

(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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