Testing times for the ruling BJP?

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been through a roller coaster ride this year, from conquering the North-east states assembly elections to losing out on key Lok Sabha constituencies during the recent bye-elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. BJP decimated the Left Front in Tripura and strategised an alliance to overthrow the incumbent Congress government in Meghalaya. However, the recent debacle in the Karnataka Assembly election was the biggest disappointment for the party this year. BJP emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka with 104 seats, and formed the government for two days, before resigning from the government and handing over the reigns to JD(S)-Congress coalition, as the party was 8 seats short of having the majority.

With the dust finally settling down in Karnataka, after a week-long political drama which saw two minister swearing in as Chief Minister of the state within 5 days, MLAs going missing and the opposition parties holding their MLAs “captive” inside the hotels, the Karnataka elections was like a Bollywood action-thriller. However, the focus for national and regional parties shifted towards the upcoming Lok Sabha by-elections in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Nagaland.

The four valuable Lok Sabha seats are up for grabs, with seats in these three states remaining vacant because of the resignation or due to the untimely death of the MPs. The Election Commission of India has been occupied since the beginning of the year in conducting the electoral process across the country. It had released the schedule for polling and counting of votes of by-elections in these states on May 3, the polling will take place on May 28, while the counting of votes is scheduled for May 31.

Maharashtra will be witnessing the by-elections in Gondia-Bhandara and Palghar parliamentary constituencies, Gondia-Bhandara Lok Sabha seat has been vacant since the BJP MP Nana Patole resigned from the party and quit his post as the MP of Gondia-Bhandara to make a return to the Congress party. On the other hand, since the unfortunate demise of BJP MP Chinataman Vanaga from Palghar Parliamentary constituency the seat has remained vacant. He died of a heart attack on January 30 this year. BJP would be desperate to get hold of both the seats that were held by the saffron party before they fell vacant, while Congress has joined hands with the Nationalist Congress Party to defeat BJPs Hemant Patel in Gondia-Bhandara, which has traditionally been an NCP bastion.

In Palghar, there’s a three-way battle between the BJP, Shiv Sena, and Congress-NCP pre-poll alliance. Shiv Sena has given a ticket to deceased Palghar MPs son Shriniwas Vanaga, whose family was neglected by the BJP after the death of Chintaman Vanaga, while Rajendra Gavit who joined BJP after defecting from the Congress, will contesting against Shriniwas.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is gearing up for another round of by-election, this time in Kairana Lok Sabha constituency. By-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies were held in early March, the ruling BJP suffered a setback as BSP-SP alliance triumphed over the BJP in both the seats. The unfortunate demise of the BJP MP Hukum Singh in February and the Kairana seat has been vacant for the last three months. The veteran BJP leader was under medical supervision in the hospital for a month because of severe breathing problems. Hukum Singh died on February 3.

It is a BJP vs Rest in Kairana, as Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati, the Congress, and Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav- have joined forces to defeat a strong BJP. BJP has given the ticket to the late Kairana MP’s daughter Mriganka Singh, while RLD has fielded Tabassum Hasan-widow of former MP Munawwar Hassan, both women candidates are looking to continue the legacy left by one’s father and other’s husband in Kairana, a Gujjar dominated constituency.

Neiphiu Rio, the current Chief Minister of Nagaland, was a Member of Parliament representing the lone Nagaland Parliamentary constituency before he decided to quit from his office in order to contest in Nagaland state assembly elections that were held on February 27 this year. The Nagaland Lok Sabha seat has remained vacant since the day Neiphiu Rio resigned. Politics in Nagaland is a complicated affair, as NPF was the ruling party since 2003 in alliance with BJP, but in the run in to the recently concluded elections NPF severed its ties with the BJP, while for the upcoming Lok Sabha by-elections, NPF has entered into an alliance with its long-time foe in Nagaland- the Congress. They have come together to take on the NDPP_BJP alliance in the state.

The countdown has already started for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with all the parties readying themselves for what could be one of the most fascinating elections in India’s electoral history. The ruling BJP which currently has 274 seats in the Lok Sabha has the comfort of a majority, but a defeat for the party in the upcoming by-elections in Maharashtra, Nagaland, and Uttar Pradesh can deal a blow to the party’s aspiration of repeating the 2014 Lok Sabha elections’ performance.

BJP is looking likely to lose out on a couple of seats in these by-elections. A victory for the opposition parties will serve as the morale booster for the regional and other national parties. For the regional parties, every victory against the BJP before 2019 Lok Sabha elections gives them a hope of a stronger and united Third Front that may be the challenger to the BJP in next year’s election.

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Testing times for the ruling BJP?
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BJP is looking likely to lose out on a couple of seats in these by-elections. A victory for the opposition parties will serve as morale booster for the regional and other national parties. For the regional parties every victory against the BJP before 2019 Lok Sabha elections gives them a hope of a stronger and united Third Front that may be challenger to the BJP in next year's election