Crucial by-elections to four Lok Sabha constituencies and 10 assembly seats on 28 May will test the winnability of the new opposition coalition and help gauge the people’s opinion on the now four-year-old Modi government.
But in the face of a resurgent opposition, it will be an uphill task for the BJP.
Since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party has lost as many as six Lok Sabha seats – Ajmer and Alwar (Rajasthan), Gorakhpur and Phulpur (UP), Gurdaspur (Punjab) and Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh). Taking into account the resignation of BS Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu, its single-party majority status is under threat.
Here’s where things stand in the four Lok Sabha constituencies that will vote on Monday.
1.BJP versus The Rest in Kairana
The bypoll in Kairana could serve as a template for opposition unity to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has fielded Tabassum Hassan who’s backed by the Samajwadi Party (SP). The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress has not fielded a candidate. The BJP is hoping to garner sympathy votes by fielding Mriganka Singh, the daughter of the incumbent Hukum Singh, whose death in February this year necessitated the bypoll.
The Kairana bypoll is crucial for the BJP after it suffered humiliating defeats in chief minister Adityanath and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maruya’s constituencies of Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
2. Prelude to 2019 in Palghar?
The Palghar experiment could also become a blueprint for 2019. The bypoll will witness the parting of allies BJP and Shiv Sena and the coming together of former allies, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The Quint’s Raunak Kudke’s report from Palghar recounts how the tug of war between the BJP and the Shiv Sena began after the seat fell vacant due to the sudden demise of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanga.
“In a crafty move, the Shiv Sena offered a ticket to Chintaman’s son Srinivas Wanga, thereby adding to the woes of the BJP,” he reports.
The BJP, for its part, offered a ticket to former Congress leader Rajendra Gavit – who has a good grip over local leaders and tribal voters – to reduce Shiv Sena’s edge, even if that means that the party had to face criticism.
The Congress has nominated Damodar Shingada as its candidate. The agreement between the Congress and the NCP is that if the Congress is nominating its candidate in Palghar, then the NCP fields its nominee from Bhandara Gondiya, the second seat in Maharashtra that’s up for by-election.
3. BJP Banks on ‘Powar’ Power in Bhandara-Gondiya
The Bhandara-Gondiya seat fell vacant after BJP’s Nana Patole defected to the Congress. This bypoll will witness a direct contest between NCP’s Madhukar Kukade and BJP’s Hemant Patel. Patel belongs to the Powar community that has a strong hold over the region and has been campaigning in the name of PM Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis.
The Congress-NCP alliance is hoping to ride on the wave of public anger against the Modi government, but their biggest challenge will be to survive the smaller regional parties who are also contesting the election. Also, people from 12 villages are boycotting the election to protest a lack of basic amenities like drinking water and claim that their demands have not been taken seriously by politicians. It will be a challenge for political parties to get them to the polling station.
4. Straight Fight in Nagaland
Nagaland’s sole Lok Sabha seat will see a direct fight between two regional fronts – one backed by the BJP and the other by the Congress. The bypoll was necessitated after sitting Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio became chief minister of the state with some support from the BJP, thereby vacating his seat in Lok Sabha.
Rio’s People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA), which includes the BJP, has fielded Tokheho Yepthomi. While Naga People’s Front, which is supported by the Congress, has fielded C Apok Jamir.
While anti-incumbency is not expected to be a factor, the call for boycott by the All Nagaland College Students’ Union, which claims support from at least one lakh students and teachers, could affect the outcome. The Naga Students Federation has also thrown its weight behind the boycott. Their demands are these: to stop the tradition of attaching primary and middle school teachers to ministries and sub-divisional and directorate offices as it leads to a shortage in schools; to streamline the process of availing of central and state scholarships; and to solve the infrastructure problems at the Kohima Science College, the only science college in the state.