In a tidal sweep of byelections in seven out of 11 states, the BJP or an ally on Tuesday won 41 of the 59 seats at stake –– as many as 31 of them at Congress’s expense. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat provided the big bang in this cracker of a pre-Diwali performance, with the saffron party wresting 26 seats from Congress in these two states alone.
In Gujarat, BJP’s “double engine” steamrollered Congress in all eight seats to which bypolls were held, including five in Saurashtra and the tribal-dominated constituency of Dang. Five of the victors are turncoat Congress MLAs who had switched sides ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. In the 182-member House, BJP now has 111 seats to Congress’s 65.
Manipur was the third state where BJP scored a near-perfect 4 in Congress strongholds. The fifth Congress-held seat was captured by an independent.
Uttar Pradesh, too, played to BJP’s script, strengthening CM Yogi Adityanath’s hand with a six-on-six show in seats held by the party, including the Bangarmau constituency that rape and murder convict Kuldeep Singh Sengar used to represent. One of the BJP victors was the late cricketer-turned-politician Chetan Chauhan’s wife Sangeeta Chauhan, who won the Naugawan Sadat seat that fell vacant when her husband died after a bout of Covid-19 in August.
The Samajwadi Party narrowly retained the seventh UP seat that went to poll, maintaining status quo in the assembly.
BJP continued its march in Karnataka, wresting the Sira seat from JD(S) and RR Nagar from Congress to silence CM BS Yediyurappa’s detractors and possibly put a lid on talk of a leadership change. As in Gujarat, voters re-elected a turncoat Congress MLA contesting the RR Nagar seat on a BJP ticket. Winner N Munirathna’s resignation after crossing over had necessitated the bypoll. The saffron party’s strength in the House now stands at 119, while Congress has 67 and JD(S) 33 MLAs.
In Telangana, BJP engineered a coup of sorts when its candidate M Raghunandan Rao beat the Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS’s nominee Solipeta Sujatha by a wafer-thin margin of 1,079 votes in the Dubbak byelection. For Raghunandan, it was fourth time lucky in Dubbak after thrice ending up on the losing side.
Sources said the verdict could well be an affirmation of how Telangana’s future politics will play out, with BJP replacing Congress as the main opposition party in the state. The first sign of this was BJP winning four seats for the first time in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In MP, 18 of the 19 seats won by BJP were those that Congress lost.
For the grand old party, the big gain was in Chhattisgarh, where it wrested the Marwahi (ST) seat — a stronghold of the Ajit Jogi family for almost two decades. Dr Krishna Kumar Dhruw defeated BJP’s Dr Gambhir Singh by over 38,197 votes there. The nearly 25% difference in vote share told the story — while ruling Congress got 56% votes, BJP managed 30.4%.
With this win, Congress now has 70 seats in the 90-member assembly after winning the Dantewada and Chitrakot (ST) byelection in September last year.
One of the two Nagaland seats that went to poll was won by NDPP, a BJP ally. The other went to an independent.