The voter turn-out was moderate, the verdict almost monumental. It might be premature to conclude a mood-swing in the “heartland”, but the rejection of the BJP in the parliamentary by-polls in UP and Bihar would hearten the Opposition, cause more than heartburn to ruling party supporters convinced that 2019 was a “done deal”.
No doubt the winds could shift again after upcoming polls to key state assemblies, yet punctured has been the aura of invincibility created around the Modi-Shah electoral machine.
Little is to be gained by contending that neither mastermind had been directly involved in the by-polls, it only exposes the inadequacies of others ~ including the UP chief minister who is being projected on the national stage even while surrendering his home-turf.
There would be few precedents of a chief minister and deputy chief minister being unable to defend the parliamentary seats they had given up for places in the state legislature.
Worse for the BJP is the defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur (along with some unfavourable results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh etc) pointing to a failure of governance to retain what was won on polarised votes. The NDA allies would be quietly thrilled, they can no longer be taken for granted and bypassed.
In causing the BJP defeat the Opposition has invited huge responsibilities upon itself. The SP-BSP link has to be upgraded from tactical to strategic, which means compromising some in-house interests in the larger hope of ensuring a win-win situation ~ on a nationwide scale.
Can their long-standing rivalries withstand such demands? Since most regional parties have “supremos” ~ Mayawati, Chandrababu, Mamata, Navin, Lalu etc ~ there will a lot of pique to be swallowed before a genuine alternative can be forged.
Who will lead the alliance, thus far its leaders have neither marched nor dined together? Ego problems have consistently negated Opposition unity ~ even when the Congress was deemed the target.
Yet the lessons of Gorakhpur and Phulpur will be ignored only to the gain of the BJP ~ which now could well discard the development camouflage and order “full steam ahead” on the Hindutva front.
Where does that leave the Congress? It took such a back seat in the by-polls (after the rout in the North-east) that only its customary arrogance will cause it to believe that it is on a Rahul Gandhi “peg” that the Opposition will hang its hat.
After all, Sonia has virtually abandoned the front-runner role, and needs little to remind her that preserving the dynasty could cost the party dear.
But why Sonia alone, surely the party is seasoned enough to re-draft its strategy, let someone else lead it to the 2019 battle-zone, perhaps place Rahul on the same lofty pedestal that “Mummy” occupied? Akhilesh and Mayawati have charted a road-map on which the Congress worm could turn.