The BJP saw its number of members in the Lok Sabha drop by two on Thursday as it failed to retain its seats in bypolls to Uttar Pradesh's Kairana and Maharashtra's Bhandara-Gondia constituencies, though it did manage to retain the Palghar seat in the latter state with a handsome win over the Shiv Sena.
Accordingly, the BJP now has 271 active party members in the 545-member lower house of India's Parliament versus the 282 members it initially had in the 16th Lok Sabha. This figure does not include MP Kirti Azad who is suspended by the party but does include house Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who is deemed 'apolitical' but allowed to cast a vote in case there's a tie.
However, in terms of the larger NDA, the Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP managed to wrest the lone Parliamentary assembly seat in the state away from the NPF, meaning that the ruling alliance's overall majority dropped by only one seat and it retains a comfortable majority.
In the stand-out contest of this particular set of bypolls, in Uttar Pradesh's Kairana, RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan, who had the combined backing of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, defeated BJP candidate Mriganka Singh, daughter of BJP leader Hukum Singh whose death had necessitated the bypoll, by a margin of over 55000 votes. The events in Kairana were of a similar nature to those that were witnessed in the state's Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies in March when the Samajwadi Party's candidates, backed by the BSP, won bypolls for the Lok Sabha seats that had been vacated by UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, giving the Opposition a big boost.
However, in another intriguing contest, in Maharashtra's Palghar, the BJP's Rajendra Gavit defeated Shrinivas Vanaga of the Shiv Sena which was contesting against its long-time ally. The Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA), which made a strong showing, had the effect of splitting the Sena's vote, Sena sources claimed. After its loss, the Shiv Sena continued to target the Election Commission citing malfunctioning EVMs for being responsible for their loss.
In the same state, in the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha bypoll, the NCP's Madhukar Kukade, who had the backing of the Congress, RPI and Piripa, claimed the seat after a tightly-contested 2000-vote-margin battle against the BJP's Hemant Patle. The bypoll was necessitated after the resignation of sitting MP Nana Patole in December 2017, who left the BJP to join the Congress. When it appeared as though the NCP was winning, it hit out at the Shiv Sena, saying the Uddhav Thackeray-led party wasn't required in a united opposition, and that the NCP was capable of beating the BJP.
Meanwhile, in the sole Lok Sabha seat in Nagaland, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party's (NDPP's) Tokheho Yepthomi emerged victorious versus the Naga People's Front's (NPF)'s C Apok Jamir with a margin of over 1 lakh votes. The seat had previously been held by Neiphiu Rio who resigned to become CM of Nagaland.
In another crunch Uttar Pradesh bypoll, in the Noorpur assembly constituency, the Samajwadi Party's Naim Ul-Hasan defeated the BJP's candidate by over 6600 votes. The bypoll had been necessitated by the death of sitting BJP MLA Lokendra Singh Chouhan. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav hailed the result as a victory for the united Opposition and said that there is a change in the political scenario.
Not far away, however, in Uttarakhand, the BJP managed to retain its Tharali seat which is reserved for members of scheduled castes. The margin of victory was slim, at only around 1800 votes. The bypoll had been necessitated following the death of sitting BJP MLA Magan Lal Shah in February.
A result that could have larger ramifications was witnessed in Meghalaya where the Congress candidate won in the Ampati constituency. The win, by former CM Mukul Sangma's daughter Miani D Shira, saw the Congress emerge as the single largest party in the state. Sangma said that his party would explore ways to form a Congress-led government in the state, though while speaking to Republic TV, Conrad Sangma, the current Chief Minister of Meghalaya dismissed the Congress' chances saying that his alliance had the support of 38 out of 60 members and had nothing to worry about.
Perhaps the biggest prestige battle among the assembly bypolls was fought in Bihar's Jokihat, where the RJD's candidate trounced the JD(U)'s candiate, winning with a margin greater than the CM Nitish Kumar-led party's total votes. The seat's previous occupant, Sarfaraz Alam, had won it on a JD(U) ticket but left the party when the Mahagathbandhan broke, joining the RJD. He later won the Lok Sabha bypoll in Araria on a RJD ticket while, on Thursday, his brother Shahnawaz Alam defeated the JD(U)'s candidate Murshid Alam. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav unleashed an unsparing attack on Nitish Kumar after the result, while even the JD(U)'s KC Tyagi pinned the blame on his party's ally BJP and the high fuel prices prevailing in the country. Like Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav also championed the win as one for the united Opposition and for "Laluwaad", invoking his father Lalu Prasad Yadav.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) managed to retain both the seats in which bypolls were held. In Gomia, the JMM's Babita Devi defeated the AJSU and BJP candidates while in Silli, the party's Seema Mahto defeated AJSU chief Sudesh Mahto. The winning margin in each of the seats was in excess of 10,000 votes.
A one-sided contest was also witnessed in West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress's candidate, Dulal Chandra Das, ensured his party retained the Mahestala assembly seat with a margin of almost 63000 votes with BJP candidate Sujit Kumar Ghosh coming in second and the CPI(M)'s Pravat Chowdhury third.
A big swing took place in the Shahkot assembly constituency in Punjab as the Congress, which is in power in the state, was able to wrest the seat from the Shiromani Akali Dal, whose sitting MLA Ajit Singh Kohar had passed away in February. Congress' Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia won the bypoll by 38802 votes, after which CM Captain Amarinder Singh hailed the overall results of the day as a sign that the Modi wave was over.
Over in Kerala, the CPI(M)-led LDF's Saji Cherian won the bypoll in Chengannur by over 20000 votes ahead of the Congress-led UDF candidate D Vijaykumar who received 46347 votes while BJP candidate P S Sreedharan Pillai got 352770 votes. The bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting MLA K K Ramachandran Nair of the CPI(M) in January.
Finally, in Maharashtra's Palus Kadegaon assembly constituency, Vishwajit Kadam, the son of Congress MLA Patangrao Kadam whose death necessitated the bypoll, was declared the unopposed winner by the Election Commission as the BJP had withdrawn its candidate.
In Karnataka, the Congress party's Munirathna Naidu won the election to the Rajarajeshwari Nagar assembly constituency that had been deferred on account of two FIRs having been filed against him for allegedly attempting to bribe voters. The matter relates to the week before the critical Karnataka elections when almost 10,000 voter ID cards were found in a flat in Bengaluru along with visiting cards and pamphlets bearing Munirathna's photos and a vehicle was seized carrying almost Rs 1 crore-worth of t-shirts and half-pants, also bearing Munirathna's photos. Munirathna retained the seat by registering a 41162-vote-win.