The bye-elections to two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and three Assembly constituencies in Bihar have been touted as a barometer of how the BJP and its allies could perform in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Looked at that way, early trends gave the BJP gains in Bihar and a setback in Uttar Pradesh.
After three rounds of counting, the BJP seems set to hold on to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s stronghold of Gorakhpur. BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla led SP-BSP challenger Pravin Nishad. The constituency has been vacant since Adityanath resigned to take over as UP Chief Minister.
The BJP however could be in for a setback in Phulpur. SP-BSP candidate Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel led over BJP’s Kaushalendra Patel, but only by a slender margin of about 1000 votes. Keshav Prasad Maurya had won the seat in 2014, and had quit at the same time as Adityanath to join as his Deputy CM.
The Congress has also put up candidates in Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
The BJP and its ally JDU however have reason to smile in Bihar. In the early rounds of counting, they seem set to retain Bhabua and snatch Araria from the RJD. However, the Jehanabad race could be headed for a photo finish, with the JDU and RJD candidates exchanging the leads with each round of counting.
The bypolls to the three seats in Bihar were necessitated by the deaths of their holders. But in the run-up to polling, the RJD had tried to frame it as a referendum on Nitish Kumar’s decision to break ties with the RJD and return to the BJP fold.