Politics

In By-Poll Results, Underlying Trends in States Trump Demonetisation Debate

The results of the November 19 by-polls to 10 assembly and four parliamentary constituencies shows that people have generally voted for the ruling parties in their respective states.

A voting official marks the finger of a voter inside a polling booth during the second phase of state elections, in Azamgarh town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh February 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Files

A voting official marks the finger of a voter inside a polling booth during the second phase of state elections, in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh February 11, 2012. Representational image. Credit: Reuters/Files

New Delhi: Contrary to what most poll pundits had predicted, the results of the by-polls to 10 assembly and four parliamentary constituencies held on November 19 did not buck the usual trend. The outcome of the elections held under the shadow of the much-debated demonetisation move was seen by many as the first signals of public sentiment vis-a-vis the currency reform measure taken by the Modi government. However, like most by-polls, the ruling parties won most seats in their respective states.

The Bharatiya Janata Party won all the going seats in Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh – states where the saffron party is in power. Similarly, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and Trinamool Congress won in Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Bengal. The Congress party, which performed miserably in most constituencies – it suffered a significant drop in its vote share – too won from the sole seat that went to polls in the union territory of Puducherry, where chief minister V. Narayansamy got elected by a massive margin.

A glimpse of the results elaborates the point further.

Madhya Pradesh

The reserved parliamentary seat, Shahdol and the industrial township of Nepanagar – an assembly constituency – were up for grabs. For both seats, the ruling BJP won, despite polling fewer votes when compared to the last election. While the party had won Shahdol by a margin of around 2.4 lakh votes in 2014, it polled only around 58 thousand votes more than its nearest Congress rival this time.

Similarly, despite winning Nepanagar, BJP’s vote share dropped by four percentage points.

West Bengal

Again, Trinamool Congress comfortably won the parliamentary seats of Tamluk and Cooch Behar and the assembly constituency of Monteshwar. While TMC secured around 78% votes in Monteshwar, the CPM, the chief opposition, was almost decimated with only 11% votes in its kitty.

Similarly, TMC performed exceedingly well in the parliamentary seats, leaving the opposition parties far behind. The CPM emerged as the biggest loser in the state. In Cooch Behar, its vote share could not touch the double figure mark as the party got only 6% votes – a drop of 27 percentage points. In Tamluk too, its vote share plummeted by almost 13%.

Tamil Nadu

The AIADMK won all the three assembly constituencies – Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Tiruparakundram – that went to polls, all by comfortable margins. Despite that fact that the opposition made a huge issue against the ruling party for the cloud of secrecy it had maintained around chief minister Jayalalithaa’s health condition, the AIADMK was still the popular choice among voters.

Assam

BJP won the Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency, vacated by chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal. Baithalangso, the assembly seat that went to polls, was won by the sitting MLA Mansing Rongpi, who contested on a BJP ticket after having been previously elected thrice on a Congress ticket. Rongpi had defected to the BJP and resigned from his seat after the saffron party came to power early this year.

Tripura

The Khowai and Barjala assembly seats that went to polls saw the ruling CPI (M)winning. However, the BJP may rejoice over the fact that it has managed to replace the Congress as the chief opposition in the state.

The Congress party vote share has dropped from a little more than 40% to a paltry 2%. In fact, the Congress which had the sitting MLA in Barjala got only 3% votes against the CPI (M)’s 45% and BJP’s 35%. The change in electoral equations may significantly change the nature of state’s politics in subsequent years.

Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry

In Arunachal Pradesh’s Hayuliang assembly seat, which was left without a representative after the death of former chief minister Kalikho Pul, BJP won quite comfortably. The party had fielded Pul’s wife, Dasanglu Pul, against the Congress.

In Puducherry’s Nellithope assembly seat, the Congress chief minister V. Narayanasamy, who had not contested the assembly elections held in May, defeated his nearest AIADMK rival by more than 11,000 votes.

While many BJP leaders lauded the party’s performance (it won five of the 14 seats) and interpreted the results as a mandate in support of the demonetisation move, a close look at the results makes it clear that the BJP has won only from those states where it is already in power. In fact, in most seats, barring the ones in the north-east where it is on a clear upswing, it fared poorly in terms of vote shares if compared to the last election.

While local concerns and popularity of the candidate matters a lot, the result showed that people are less likely to go against the ruling party in such by-polls. Fear of getting identified and then isolated, is one of the topmost concerns among the electorate. Also, even if demonetisation may have impacted the electorate, it was too early for it to become the sole political issue, given the fact that the demonetisation move is only a fortnight-old and people are yet to realise its full impact – both positive and negative.

The only conclusion one can draw from the result is that the Congress party is confronting the worst crisis in its electoral history. In most states, except Puducherry, its performance dipped from bad to worse. Most of its candidates lost by a huge number of votes, even in seats where it was the only significant opposition party.

  • Anjan Basu

    One small correction: in Cooch Behar, in West Bengal, it was not the CPM that came a poor second behind the TMC but the All India Forward Block. Also, the BJP’s gains in Tripura cannot be understated by any means. A positive vote share swing of 34%, on a base presumably of only 1%, is quite remarkable.

  • subhasis ghosh

    Given the ideological slant of this publication, it is amusing to note it is forced to concede that even after it’s worst ever performance in 2014, Congress continues to be in decline. You have sought to play down BJP’s rise not only in NE but also in West Bengal by juxtapositioning it against the fall in victory margin in MP. A more honest appraisal would have required you to point out historical how difficult it is to win elections, three times in a row.