By elections 2018: As BJP starts prep for 2019, Kairana and Palghar bypoll results could loom large in thinking

A fissure growing within the BJP-led NDA coalition? An added impetus to the grand alliance of anti-BJP parties? Observers are focussing attention on two Lok Sabha bypolls, voting for which took place on Monday, to try and discern if there is such a trend.
Though by-election for two other Lok Sabha constituencies and 10 assembly seats also saw polling Monday, the most significant were Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, and Palghar in Maharashtra.In Kairana, the grand alliance against BJP is at play, with the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party supporting the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hassan, who had won in 2009 on a BSP ticket, against BJP’s Mriganka Singh, daughter of BJP winner in 2014 Hukum Singh whose death necessitated the bypoll.In Palghar, the Shiv Sena, part of the NDA coalition with the BJP in the state and Centre, has fielded a candidate against the BJP. Kairana assumes significance as the BJP had lost the March by-election in Gorakhpur, the chief minister’s stronghold from where he has won five times, and Phulpur, to a combined opposition.Punctuated by faulty machines, clashes, violationsMuch analysis will be done on the status of the NDA and the grand anti-BJP alliance, which held a massive photo-op in Bangalore just a week ago, when the results of these two and the other bypolls held Monday, punctuated by complaints of faulty electronic voting machines (EVM), clashes among supporters of the contesting political parties, and allegations of violation of poll code, are decided on 31 May.Tabassum Hassan, SP’s candidate who is contesting polls from Kairana on RLD ticket, had won in 2009 on a BSP ticket, and is pitted against BJP’s Mriganka Singh. PTITabassum Hassan, SP’s candidate who is contesting polls from Kairana on RLD ticket, had won in 2009 on a BSP ticket, and is pitted against BJP’s Mriganka Singh. PTIAs the BJP starts its preparations for the 2019 general elections, the Kairana and Palghar results could loom large in its thinking.
Kairana is a microcosm of the caste and communal polarisation that has been fuelled in Uttar Pradesh. The constituency had caused a major political controversy for the supposed exodus of Hindus from there allegedly due to fear of growing Muslim population in the area. It also has a significant Jat voter base, which the RLD is expected to exploit. Which is why it is being seen as an important test for the much talked about grand alliance to stop Narendra Modi’s victory march before the 2019 elections.