Bypolls don't matter much numerically but they certainly give indications of how things could go in the next big election, particularly if there is a gap of less than a year. The February results of the three bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, the key state which will go to election early next year, is significant on this count.
Losing Muzaffarnagar and Deoband a big blow for SP
In these three bypolls, the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) of Akhilesh Yadav received a blow as it could win only one of the three seats, which is Bikapur in Faizabad district. The other two seats---Muzaffarnagar and Deoband---were won by the BJP and Congress, respectively. [BJP, BSP will have an intense battle in Purvanchal, says survey]
The SP had won all three seats in the 2012 Assembly election which it had dominated. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is predicted to do well than others in the next election, did not take part in these bypolls.
Are Muslims deserting SP?
The bypoll results would have been otherwise insignificant but the fact that the SP lost in seats like Muzaffarnagar and Deoband says enough about the changing socio-political equations in UP's electoral politics.
The loss in two constituencies where the Muslims make up a significant part of the electorate suggest that the minority community has grown a distrust on the ruling party. This is certainly a bad news for the SP which has traditionally banked on the Muslims over the years.
Though Akhilesh Yadav tried to downplay the losses saying these things do happen, but not all in his party are feeling secure. The party is particularly worried with the victory of Congress candidate Mavia Ali in Deoband for if the grand-old party, which was once preferred the most by the Muslims, regains its lost ground in the state, then the challenges will be double for 'Muslims' messiah' Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Is Congress on a path to revival?
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the Congress put up his best performance in UP in three decades and it was possible because of the Muslim votes. The party won Deoband after a gap of 27 years and this will do its confidence a world of good ahead of the next big test. The Congress could won just two among 80 seats in the UP in the last general elections and the two winners were its chief Sonoa Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Besides the Congress, Muslim outfit like the AIMIM is another worry for the SP. Even in Bikapur which the SP won, the Hyderabad-based party won 17,000 votes---something which will leave Akhilesh and Mulayam more than worried. The AIMIM's decision to field candidates in seats where the Muslims have a sizeable presence in the next polls will also have a consequence in the SP's own ranks as the party is fighting a heavy anti-incumbency this time.
BJP's win in Muzaffarnagar is another blow for SP
In Muzaffarnagar, it is the other national party BJP which had the last laugh in the bypolls. The latter swept the Jat-dominated western parts in the last general elections, thanks to a polarisation of votes in the wake of the riots that took place in 2013. An elated saffron party said after the bypoll win that it will win the next Assembly election.
Though there is still some time to go for the big test, but the outcome will leave the Akhilesh Yadav government with enough reasons to worry.
Akhilesh, who became India's youngest chief minister in 2012, is hoping to return to power on the basis of development, something that Narendra Modi has done in Gujarat in the past, but problems in functioning of the state bureaucracy and the party machine in reaching out to the people has proved to be obstacles on the path of the young CM's dream.