The results of the byelections to 10 assembly and four Lok Sabha seats has at least settled the debate that demonetisation was not the concern of voters in these bypolls. The overall results indicate that the BJP could neither gain from the demonetisation policy nor could the opposition manage to mobilise the people against it.
The results are almost a status quo, hardly a noticeable change for the winning party in these constituencies. The parties which are in power in different states managed to perform well and retained the seats which they won during the 2014 general election.
Bad News for Congress
If there is one loser, it is the Congress, which lost the Barjala assembly seat to the CPI(M) and the Hayuliang seat in Arunachal Pradesh to the BJP. In fact, the Congress was lucky to retain the Nellithope assembly seat in Puducherry, else it would have drawn a blank. The BJP will anyway celebrate the Congress’ defeat in the two seats, but a nil result for the Congress would have given them more ammunition to slam the party and raise once again their pet “Congress Mukt Bharat” slogan.
Not Much Cheer for BJP
But is there anything for the BJP to feel happy about? Not really. The BJP managed to retain the two Lok Sabha seats -- Lakhimpur in Assam and Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh. It also managed to retain two assembly seats -- Baithalangso in Assam and Nepanagar in Madhya Pradesh. The only gain for the BJP is in Hayuliang in Arunachal Pradesh, which it snatched from the Congress. This was the only consolation prize for the party.
The TMC managed to retain the Tamluk and Cooch Behar Lok Sabha constituencies besides the Monteswar assembly seat, which in real terms is not quite a gain for Mamata Banerjee-led party. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK not only managed to retain Thanjavur and Thiruparankundram assembly seats, but it also snatched the Aravakurichi seat from the DMK. There is indeed something to cheer for the AIADMK at a time when its leader, Jayalalithaa continues to be in hospital.
Thumbs-Up for Local Government
So how do we analyse these results? First, they indicate an overall endorsement of the work done by the respective state governments and people seem to be reasonably happy with the incumbent political establishments. As in many elections, this time around, local, not national issues dominated the minds of the voters. Nationalism certainly wasn’t at the back of their minds when they went out to vote.
The surgical strike against Pakistan and the recent currency exchange move, issues over which the ruling BJP tried to campaign, and were billed as the party’s success stories, may have had takers in different corners of the country, but the voters at large did not exercise their franchise on these considerations.
They may or may not support the government’s steps or consider them as shining examples of tough measures, but at least the voters across the seven states where bypolls were held did not consider them big issues in these byelections.
The retention of most of the seats by the ruling parties in the respective states suggest that there is some pro-incumbency in their favour, but the ultimate mantra is that it is governance and not mere rhetoric that matters.
(The writer is a Professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)