Straws in the wind

Two bye-election results, one in the north and the other in the far south, one for the Lok Sabha and the other for the State Assembly in Kerala, gave gone decisively against the ruling BJP.  In the Gurdaspur (Punjab) Lok Sabha election, the Congress candidate polled 4,99,752 vote, followed by BJP’s 3,06,503 votes. The Congress candidate defeated the BJP by a margin of 1.93 lakh votes. The AAP came a poor third with just 23,579 votes. The voters of Gurdaspur rejected Arvind Kejriwal’s party emphatically. In the Vengara Assembly constituency of Kerala, the UDF constituent IUML candidate polled 65,227 votes, followed by CPM’s 41,917. The BJP came fourth, polling a meager 5,728 votes.
The fine print of the Kerala result brings out some interesting trends. The IUML candidate won but it polled 14,747 votes less than last time, while the CPM‘s vote tally increased by 7,793 votes.  In other words, the UDF’s vote share fell while that of the CPM rose. This does not bring good tidings for the BJP which seems to have already taken it for granted that Kerala is in its bag. The CPM is still far head of the BJP as far as voters’ preference is concerned. What is more, the CPM vote share has gone up in face of the recent aggressive onslaught of the RSS on the party.
The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat was held for several consecutive terms by the popular film star Vinod Khanna who fought as a BJP candidate. This time the BJP candidate lost to the Congress by a margin of nearly two lakh votes. Even as a by-poll result in a Congress-ruled State, the margin of defeat must be very embarrassing for the BJP, particularly because it comes shortly before the Gujarat Assembly elections, to be followed by several State Assembly elections. The Lok Sabha polls are due in March-April, 2019. And all these are BJP-ruled States where the people will give their verdict on the performance not only of the State Governments but more so of the Central Government and its economic policies like demonetization and introduction of the GST.
The Opposition is bound to harp again and again on the promises given by Modi in the 2014 LS polls and his failure to deliver – from depositing Rs.15 lakh into the bank account of everyone having a bank account to recovering black money stashed abroad to creating 20 million jobs a year. If the Gurdaspur and Vengara results are an indication of the public mood, the BJP has cause of concern. These results may be the proverbial straws in the wind.

Tuesday, 17 October, 2017