If Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were the main acts, by-polls spread across five states made for captivating side battles, especially in UP’s Mainpuri LS and Rampur and Khatauli assembly seats as well as Kurhani in Bihar.
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple won Mainpuri by a margin of over 280,000 votes, a feat even party patriarch and her father-in-law Mulayam Singh Yadav had never achieved in the constituency that had elected him every time since 2004. But BJP handed a stunning defeat to SP in another of its bastions, Rampur, where the party had never lost since 2002. There were many firsts - it was BJP’s first win there and Rampur elected a non-Muslim legislator for the first time since the first assembly polls in 1952.
Akash Saxena of the BJP defeated Asim Raja of the SP by a margin of 34,136 votes in a district that had previously supported Muslim candidates 19 times. Ten times, Azam had taken the seat. The elections were prompted by his disqualification in a case involving hate speech. Only eight months ago, Saxena was defeated by Azam by a margin of over 55,000 votes. BJP adopted the strategy of consolidating Azam’s detractors and reaching out to Muslims who constitute around 65% of the electorate. But the Rampur by-polls were marred by an abysmally low turnout of 31% amid SP’s allegations that the BJP government misused state machinery to scare away voters. BJP denied the charges.
But the BJP lost in Khatauli. Raj Kumari Saini, the wife of former MLA Vikram Saini, who was disqualified on suspicion of his role in the Muzaffarnagar riots, lost to SP-backed RLD candidate Madan Bhaiyya for the seat. Raj Kumari was defeated by Ghaziabad strongman Madan Bhaiyya by a margin of 22,143 votes. Since 2017, BJP has been victorious in Khatauli.
In Bihar, BJP dealt a blow to the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan governing the state by wresting the Kurhani assembly seat in Muzaffarpur. BJP’s Kedar Prasad Gupta defeated Manoj Singh Kushwaha of JD (U) by a margin of 3,649 votes.
In Odisha, CM Naveen Patnaik halted an upbeat BJP in the Padampur by-polls, considered a BJD stronghold. BJD’s Barsha Singh Bariha defeated BJP candidate Pradip Purohit by 42,000 votes.
Congress in Chhattisgarh retained the tribal Bhanupratappur (ST) assembly seat with its candidate Savitri Mandavi winning the seat by a margin of 21,000 votes. The victory adds another feather to CM Bhupesh Baghel’s cap, as the party has won all five assembly by-elections held since Congress took over the reins of the state four years ago.