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Such are the expectations of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah era, that two ostensible victories are being seen as a “poor showing”, a “wrong turn” or worse. To be fair, those expectations come from the party itself (it tends to announce how many seats it is aiming for, and turn it into a “Mission”) and from the BJP’s huge success under Modi and Shah.
So with these high standards in mind, here is how bad things were for the BJP on Thursday, as the results to two state elections and a number of bye-polls came in:
- In Haryana, the BJP failed to secure a majority by itself winning 40 seats, well below its stated aim of 75 and under the halfway mark of 45. The Congress won 31, and the Jannayak Janata Party won 10. The result is a hung assembly, with efforts on now to cobble a majority.
- In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won a comfortable victory, taking home 161 seats in the 288-strong assembly. But the successful result papers over a drop in numbers from 2014, and also the BJP’s inability to expand at the cost of its ally, Shiv Sena, which had been one of its aims. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance won 103 seats, much better than its expected showing.
- The BJP had something of a bad day in bye-polls around the country as well, losing five seats in Bihar, where assembly elections are due next year, and three out of six seats in Gujarat (including prominent Congress turncoat Alpesh Thakore).
- In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP did better, holding on to eight of 11 seats up for grabs along with its allies.
- In Bihar, despite the BJP’s woeful assembly bye-poll showing, its ally the Lok Janshakti Party managed to win the one Lok Sabha seat on offer.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempted to reframe the party’s showing at a victory rally later in the day, calling the results “unprecedented” and saying that few governments manage to be re-elected these days. But the sense of disappointment was palpable, not least because the BJP had exuded confidence – promising to win more than two-thirds in both states – and because exit polls had suggested this would happen.
Meanwhile, the results were bittersweet for the Opposition too. While it provides some relief against the onslaught of the BJP, and offers hope that simply pointing to Pakistan and resorting to nationalistic rhetoric will not win elections, it also makes it evident that if the Congress-led Opposition had actually had a strong gameplan and stable leadership, it might have been able to do much more.
A few other interesting tid-bits from the results:
- In Tamil Nadu, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam managed to win two assembly seat bye-polls, embarrassing its rival the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
- In Maharashtra’s Latur, the None of the Above option came in second place, ahead of the Shiv Sena candidate, but behind the Congress.
- In Maharashtra’s Satara, BJP candidate Udayanraje Bhosale – who had won the Lok Sabha elections just months earlier on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket – lost his election, one of a number of turncoats to have a bad day.
- In Bihar, Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen won a seat for the first time in the assembly (and for the first time outside the Deccan), in Kishanganj.
We will have more analysis for you in Monday’s newsletter, but for now a few pieces breaking down the results:
- Shoaib Daniyal asks whether Haryana, where the BJP saw a 20 percentage point drop between Lok Sabha and Assembly, is proof that voters pick differently at state and national polls.
- Aarefa Johari hears from Shiv Sena workers on the ground, who are jubilant about the fact that their party can now assert itself a little more within the alliance.
- I offer you four takeaways from the Haryana result, which should be an eye-opener for the BJP and also brings JJP’s Dushyant Chautala to the fore.
- DK Singh in the Print had predicted victories for the BJP in both states, but said “something has changed for Modi voters”. He was right, and had some takeaways from the results.
- Manoj CG in the Indian Express puts forward the Congress mood, where old-timers might take heart from Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s success in Haryana, while others are clear that if the party had done more, it might have won.
- Nistula Hebbar in the Hindu points to losses for a number of ministers in Maharashtra and Haryana, saying this reflects a local disconnect for the BJP, which has its national narrative clearly set.
- Neelanjan Sircar in the Hindustan Times looks at the huge drop in BJP vote share from the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Haryana, and draw some conclusions about what that might mean for other regional leaders.
- Sujata Anandan in the Hindustan Times wrote, before the results, about how Sharad Pawar is still managing to control the narrative.
Have thoughts about the results? Have we missed any good pieces analysing the elections? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org