BJP sweeps Gujarat bypolls, RJD trumps JD(U) in Bihar

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The saffron party is leading in two Lok Sabha and four Assembly constituencies.

Three days ahead of the BJP’s crucial national executive meeting in Goa, the people of Gujarat stood like a rock behind Chief Minister Narendra Modi: the party wrested six seats from the Congress in the state, winning Lok Sabha by-elections in Porbandar and Banaskantha — with margins of over 1.28 lakh and 71,000 votes respectively — as well as the Assembly seats of Limbadi, Morva Hadaf, Jetpur and Doraji.

The BJP’s winning candidate from Porbandar, Vithal Radadiya, had defected from the Congress last year shortly after he hit the headlines after brandishing a gun at a toll booth.

For the Congress that retained only the Yavatmal Assembly by-election in Maharashtra, where the party is in power, the results from Gujarat underscored its vulnerability in the state. If Mr. Modi, in the national capital for a chief ministers’ conference described his “100 per cent victory” as symptomatic of the people’s anger against the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit downplayed the results.

“These are local elections and they should be seen as such. Don’t see them as results of national elections. Every state has its own character,” Mr Dikshit said, pointing out that the BJP had failed to open its account in states other than Gujarat, and added that the mood of the people in the country would be known only in 2014.

Indeed, apart from Gujarat, whether Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal or Bihar, the BJP failed to score: in Bihar, its partner, the Janata Dal-United, failed to win Maharajganj, held by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal. The RJD candidate, Prabhunath Singh, comprehensively defeated the JD-U’s P.K. Shahi by 137,000 votes in a three cornered contest. The Congress, too, had fielded a candidate, while the BJP had put its weight behind the JD-U. The RJD had the backing of Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.

For Bihar’s ruling JD-U, it was a major setback, given that this was the party’s first defeat in a by-election since Nitish Kumar became chief minister in November 2005.

Indeed, the JD-U was the only ruling party that failed to win a seat: if the BJP swept Gujarat, the Congress won a seat in Maharashtra, the Trinamool Congress retained the Howrah Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal by a margin of 27,015 votes, while the Samajwadi Party kept the Handia assembly seat in Uttar Pradesh defeating the Bahujan Samaj Party by over 26,000 votes.

In 2009, the Trinamool won Howrah by 37,392 votes.

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