Bypolls in seven Assembly segments in six States across the country threw up mixed political signals. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won three and Opposition parties won four. There is no national pattern to be sought in these elections that answer widely different situations and calculations, but the polls do offer pointers to local shifts. In Ghosi in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s Dara Singh Chauhan lost the election to the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate. Mr. Chauhan represented a pattern of BJP expansion through defections and allurement. He was the sitting SP MLA who crossed over to the saffron party and sought re-election as a BJP MLA. The SP candidate was supported by the Congress, the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML)-Liberation, broadly the INDIA bloc of Opposition parties in the State. Uttar Pradesh is critical for the BJP’s fortunes in 2024, and the Ghosi by-election had turned high profile after SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, who had been keeping his head down for some time, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath both campaigned hard. The BJP also sought to reinforce its multi-caste Hindu coalition in the by-election, but it did not find favour with voters in the end. The BJP retained a seat in Uttarakhand, while it lost a sitting seat in West Bengal to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha retained Dumri in Jharkhand.
Dhupguri in West Bengal witnessed a combination of INDIA bloc parties facing off against another constituent, while Puthuppally in Kerala had the parties in the combination fighting each other. In Dhupguri, the CPI(M) and the Congress jointly opposed a third INDIA partner TMC, and finished a distant third. The TMC is eager to prevent an alliance between the Congress and the CPI(M), both of which are confused and struggling to survive in West Bengal. In Kerala, fronts led by the CPI(M) and the Congress, clashed for the seat vacated by the death of Congress veteran Oommen Chandy. His son Chandy Oommen romped home comfortably. Though it had repeatedly framed the by-election as a test of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s governance, the Left’s stakes in Puthuppally were not as high as they were in Boxanagar in Tripura which it lost for the first time since 1988 to the BJP. The BJP also retained Dhanpur in the State. The CPI(M) has alleged electoral malpractices and violence by the ruling BJP in Tripura. The outcomes were largely decided by local factors, but they also indicate the political winds in the respective regions.