LUCKNOW/PATNA — In results that could set the tone for the 2019 general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party March 14 received a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar losing four of the five seats, including the prestigious Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary constituencies, after non-BJP parties teamed up in alliances against the saffron party in the two states.
The BJP also lost the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad assembly seat while scoring a consolation win in the Bhabhua assembly seat in Bihar. The results in both states triggered calls for a Grand Alliance – a la Bihar – all across India to take on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.
After sweeping the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and the assembly elections last year, the BJP faced formidable rivals in the form of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, who stitched a last-minute alliance in the by-polls. BSP supremo Mayawati had announced her party would back SP candidates in both constituencies in return for SP support for her party candidate in the Rajya Sabha biennial elections.
The BJP lost the Gorakhpur seat to the SP by a margin of 21,961 votes. SP candidate Pravin Kumar Nishad got 456,437 votes over his nearest BJP rival, Upendra Dutt Shukla, who secured 434,476 votes. Congress candidate Sureetha Kareem polled 18,844 votes.
Yogi Adityanath, who represented the Gorakhpur seat in the Lok Sabha five times, winning the last elections in 2014 with a margin of 3.13 lakh votes, resigned from the seat after he became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Before him, his mentor, Yogi Avaidyanath, was the Gorakhpur MP for two terms, in 1991 and 1993.
In the Phulpur constituency, which was once represented by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, SP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel defeated BJP candidate Kaushalendra Singh by a margin of 59,613 votes.
The winner polled 342,796 votes, while the BJP candidate got 283,183 votes. Former mafia don-turned politician Ateeq Ahmed secured 48,087 votes, while the Congress's Manish Mishra polled 19,334 votes.
The SP has been the runner-up for Gorakhpur seat many times before, while it has won the Phulpur seat four times since 1996. The BJP won the Phulphur Lok Sabha seat for the first time in 2014 when current Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya won by a margin of over three lakh votes.
In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal won 73 of 80 Lok Sabha seats and 325 out of 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections.
In the neighboring Bihar, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal dealt a stunning blow to the saffron party and its ally Janata Dal (United), headed by Chief Minister Nitsh Kumar, when it bagged the Araria Lok Sabha seat.
The RJD's Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh by over 60,000 votes in Araria.
In the Jehanabad assembly constituency, Suday Yadav of the RJD defeated JD-U candidate Abhiram Sharma by 35,036 votes while the BJP's Rinki Pandey worsted Sambhu Patel of the Congress, a RJD ally, by 15,000 votes in Bhabua assembly constituency.
It was a direct fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the RJD-Congress Grand Alliance in Bihar, a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha battle.
With the original Grand Alliance unraveled after the JD-U deserted it in favor of the BJP, there was a lot at stake for everyone in the by-elections: the RJD, JD-U, BJP and Congress.
SP and RJD workers celebrated across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.
At the Bihar Assembly premises, RJD legislators played Holi, splashing each other with colored powder.
Elsewhere, RJD workers beat drums and raised slogans hailing Lalu Prasad, who has been jailed for corruption; and his son Tejashwi Yadav, who asked opposition leaders to join hands at the national level to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha battle.
The balloting in Jehanabad and Bhabua followed the deaths of RJD and BJP legislators, respectively. The Araria Lok Sabha seat became vacant after the death last year of Mohammad Taslimuddin, the RJD MP.
The RJD fielded Sarfaraz Alam – son of Taslimuddin and a legislator of the ruling JD-U. Last month, he left the JD-U and quit the Assembly to join the RJD.
He is a former legislator from Jokihat in the Araria district.