Will BJP’s poor bypoll performances impact on 2019 Lok Sabha Elections?

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New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah might have often said that losing Lok Sabha bypolls was not bigger than winning state elections but available statistics indicates a dissatisfactory trend for the ruling party ahead of General Elections 2019.

Post the historic win of the Saffron Alliance in the 2014 general elections, the performance of BJP and its alliance in the Lok Sabha bypolls over the last five years has been underwhelming. Since May 2014, BJP has seen a significant decline in getting success in Lok Sabha bypolls. The party has only managed to win only 6 seats out of the 30 seats, where bypolls held between 2014 and November 2018.

BJP received a major setback in March 2018 when it lost the losses in the by-election held in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf – Gorakhpur and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya’s former seat – Phulpur in Allahabad. The party also lost in Bihar’s Araria, which the RJD managed to retain.

Of all Lok Sabha seats that had witnessed bypoll post 2014, 15 were previously held by the BJP. The party has not added any new seats to its kitty and lost 9 of their seats. Of the only 6 seats that BJP has managed hold back, two of party’s wins came in 2014, the year Narendra Modi won his historic mandate, and the other two came in 2016. Between 2015 to March 2018, BJP did not win a single by-election. In 2018, party succeeded in retaining of its 2 seats – Palghar (Maharashtara) and Shimoga (Karnataka) constituencies.

In contrast, the Congress has won 6 of the Lok Sabha battles in the bypoll battle. Of these six seats, the Congress retained the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat and wrested the other 5 from the BJP’s kitty. After Congress and BJP both the parties bagging 6 seats each, All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) managed four wins each, to grab the third position.

In 2014, by-elections were held in five constituencies. All five seats were retained by the respective parties that had won them in the General Election. BJP retained Maharashtra’s Beed and Gujarat’s Vadodara, which Modi had won and vacated in 2014. The BJD retained the seat of Kandhamal in Odisha, the SP retained UP’s Mainpuri and the TRS managed to hold the seat of Medak in Andhra Pradesh.

The year 2015, however, saw a slight reversal, with BJP losing Ratlam constituency in Madhya Pradesh, to Congreess, which it won in 2014. On the other hand, the TRS held the Warangal seat while the TMC held the Bangaon seat in West Bengal.

BJP performed better in 2016, when it retained the Lakhimpur seat in Assam and the Shahdol seat in Madhya Pradesh. However, it failed to wrest TMC’s strongholds – Coochbehar and Tamluk in West Bengal. In the Tura bypoll, BJP’s Meghalaya unit chose not to contest the polls and instead, supported the NPP, which won the election.

For BJP, 2017 began on a bad note. The party lost two bypolls in Punjab. In Amritsar, the Congress managed to retain the seat while in Gurdaspur, it wrested a seat that BJP had won four times. In Kerala, too, the party lost the Malappuram Lok Sabha bypoll and in Srinagar, its ally PDP lost its seat to NC’s Farooq Abdullah.

BJP witnessed another string of losses in 2018. Of the eight seats which previously had BJP MPs, six were lost. It succeeded in retaining only 2 seats from Palghar (Maharashtara) and Shimoga (Karnataka) constituencies.

In February 2018, BJP lost the bypolls in Rajasthan’s Ajmer and Alwar, to the Congress. It also failed to defeat TMC in West Bengal’s Uluberia. Besides the losses in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the party lost in the Araria bypoll in Bihar to the RJD.

However, other including SP, TRS, NPP, IUML and BJD have fared better and managed to retain their respective seats. TRS managed to retain the two of its seats which went for the bypolls. The best strike rate, was of TMC. Four seats from West Bengal that had TMC MPs and witnessed by-elections between 2014 and 2018 were retained by it.

The only party that seems to have failed in retaining its seat in the past five years is BJP.

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