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BJP loses Kairana & Noorpur bye-polls: Why UP Grand Alliance is Modi's worst nightmare

Aditya Menon | Updated on: 31 May 2018, 17:56 IST
(Arya Sharma)

At the expense of seeming over-optimistic, the Kairana bye-poll provides hints that Western Uttar Pradesh may have begun moving away from the politics of communal polarisation. During polling, in some places Jat women are reported to have made Muslim women to go ahead in the voting line as the latter were fasting for Ramzan. This was unthinkable in an area which witnessed ghastly communal riots five years ago.

After the results, the victorious Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Tabssum Hasan spoke affectionately of her BJP rival Mriganka Singh saying, "If I am a daughter-in-law of Kairana, but she is the daughter of Kairana" after the latter congratulated her on her victory.

Hasan defeated BJP's Singh by a margin of over 50,000 votes in a seat that was held by the latter's father Hukum Singh, until his death last year. In the bye-election to the Noorpur Assembly seat, Samajwadi Party's Naim-ul-Hasan defeated BJP's Avani Singh by 6211 votes.

Nothing seems to have worked for the BJP - neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi's roadshow and rally in Baghpat, barely 50 km away from Kairana, one day before polling; nor Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's communal speeches, raking up the Muzaffarnagar riots, the fake Kairana exodus as well as the Jinnah portrait controversy.

It is understandable why the BJP raised the stakes. It was paramount for the party to defeat the Opposition alliance in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The results show that the alliance's success in Gorakhpur and Phulpur earlier this year weren't by fluke and that a combined Opposition can defeat the BJP even in Western Uttar Pradesh, which the BJP had swept in 2014 riding on communal polarisation following the Muzaffarnagar riots.

Getting non-Muslim voters to vote for Muslim candidates was supposed to be the biggest test for the Opposition alliance. They have passed this test with Muslim candidates emerging victorious in both Kairana and Noorpur.

The victory is particularly significant for the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which was fighting for survival after being reduced to cipher in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly. RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary led the campaign in Kairana from the front, extensively touring Jat dominated villages in the constituency.

"This is a defeat of BJP's divisive politics. It is a defeat of communal issues they raised such as Jinnah and Kairana exodus," Chaudhary said, after Hasan's victory. Acknowledging the alliance, Chaudhary also congratulated to the parties which supported his candidate: SP, BSP, Congress, CPI-M and AAP.

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is one of the architects of the Opposition alliance, said that, "Those in power have been defeated in their own laboratory. This is the defeat of their politics that is based on dividing the country. This is a victory of people who believe in peace and harmony. This is the beginning of the end of their (BJP's) arrogant power".

Even though it does seem that Jats and Dalits voted for RLD's Hasan in large numbers, the alliance walked the tight-rope in managing the delicate balance between communities in Kairana. Hasan was kept away from Jat-dominated villages, where Jayant Chaudhary led the campaign. The RLD on the other hand did not focus as much no Muslim dominated villages, which were largely left to Hasan and her son Nahid Hasan, who is a Samajwadi Party MLA from Kairana. Akhilesh Yadav stayed of the campaign. Some say this was because Yadav's presence could have given BJP the chance to rake up the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that took place under his tenure.

True to form, the BJP did rake up the issue. During his election speech, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath repeatedly mentioned Sachin and Gaurav, two Jat boys who were killed in Muzaffarnagar in 2013.

However, the Opposition should also be concerned that the transfer of votes wasn't as effective as it was in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls. In the 2017 Assembly polls, the combined vote share of Opposition parties in the 5 Assembly segments in Kairana was 19% more than that of the BJP. But Tabassum Hasan's margin of victory over Mriganka Singh was less than 10%. In Noorpur, the combined vote share of the SP, BSP, RLD and Congress was 16% in 2017. It has shrunk to about 5%.

In Phulpur and Gorakhpur, SP-BSP led alliance's margin had increased between 2017 and 2018.

The bad news for the BJP is that if the Opposition alliance remains united in the Lok Sabha polls and are able to transfer their votes effectively, the party could lose around 50 seats from Uttar Pradesh alone.

First published: 31 May 2018, 17:56 IST