The bye-elections to two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, and one Lok Sabha and two 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 small gains in Bihar and a setback in Uttar Pradesh.
After leading in the early rounds of counting, the BJP slipped behind the SP in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s stronghold of Gorakhpur. BJP’s Upendra Dutt Shukla fell behind SP-BSP challenger Pravin Nishad. The constituency has been vacant since Adityanath resigned to take over as UP Chief Minister.
The BJP has also trailed through most of the counting 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 after the first few rounds of counting. 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 may end up making small gains in Bihar. In the early rounds of counting, they seem set to retain the Bhabua Assembly seat and snatch the Araria Lok Sabha constituency from the RJD. However, the race for the Jehanabad Assembly seat could be headed for a photo finish, with the JDU and RJD candidates exchanging the leads with each other in early 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.