POLITICS
31/05/2018 4:01 PM IST | Updated 01/06/2018 3:17 PM IST

BJP Suffers Massive Defeat In Kairana By-Poll; Its Third Consecutive Lok Sabha Loss In UP

The BJP’s defeat in western UP today mirrors a similar defeat in eastern UP in March.

Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters

The BJP today lost its third straight Lok Sabha by-poll in Uttar Pradesh, this year.

Faced with a united opposition, in a constituency with significant Muslim presence, the BJP's efforts to make it a straight Hindu-Muslim fight did not work.

As of 3:00 pm, the BJP was trailing by over 42,000 votes in Kairana, according to ANI. The united opposition, comprising the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, was fronted by the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), a party which has traditionally enjoyed the support of farmers in the region. The Congress Party did not field a candidate to avoid splitting the vote.

While the alliance was targeting the votes of Muslims, Dalits and Jats, the BJP was aiming for the upper caste Hindus, the OBCs, and non-Jatav Dalits.

The BJP has also lost the Assembly seat from Noorpur, in western Uttar Pradesh, to the Samajwadi Party, and the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra, where the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had formed an alliance. BJP, however, retained the Palghar seat in Maharashtra.

The BJP's defeat in western UP today mirrors a similar defeat in eastern UP in March.

In the two previous by-polls, in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, Akhilesh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP, joined forces in order to beat the BJP, wresting the seats held by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.

BJP's losses today suggest that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah election juggernaut faces a serious challenge if the Congress and regional parties work together with the sole purpose of beating the saffron party in the 2019 general election.

READ: Jats Are Torn Between Voting As 'Hindus' Or As Sugarcane Farmers

Communal versus sugarcane

While some believe that the result in Kairana today suggest that BJP's strategy of polarization is losing traction, it is the sugarcane crisis in western UP that is more likely to have hurt its chances.

Jat farmers have supported the BJP after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, but the non-payment of dues by sugarcane mills appear to have taken precedence over communal feelings.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appearance in neighboring Baghpat to inaugurate a 14-lane expressway made little difference. The Prime Minister's attempt at indirect campaigning backfired when a sugarcane farmer, who was protesting the non-payment of sugarcane dues and a hike in power tariffs in rural areas, died of a cardiac arrest on the same day.

As one Jat farmer toldHuffPost India, last week, "The situation of the sugarcane farmers has never been so bad under any previous government. It is time for the BJP to get a shock."

The results today will also make a case for having a pre-poll alliance as opposed to a post-poll alliance as was the case in the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly election.

While the BJP had emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka, the Congress and the Janata Dal (United) acted quickly and forged an alliance in order to prevent their rival from forming the government. Both parties, however, have struggled to stay together in the aftermath of the election.

READ: Meet Mriganka Singh, The Soft-Spoken Woman At The Heart Of BJP's Hindutva Battle In Western Uttar Pradesh

Muslim woman in Lok Sabha

In another significant development, Tabassum Hasan, who ran on an RLD ticket, will be the only Muslim lawmaker from UP in the Lok Sabha.

The Kairana election was also a battle between two influential families. Hasan, a former parliamentarian, is the mother of Nahid Hasan, the MLA from SP in Kairana. The BJP fielded Mriganka Singh, daughter of Hukum Singh, the BJP lawmaker who had floated the (now disproved) theory of a Hindu exodus from Kairana.

Hasan defeated Singh in 2009, but he came to power in 2014 following the Muzaffarnagar riots. BJP hoped that his daughter would ride the sympathy wave, but her chances faded in the face of a united opposition.

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