By-elections as pointers

By-elections as pointers


Ruling parties enjoy an inherent advantage in by-elections, especially in States where Assembly elections were held only months earlier. Voters see little point in antagonising their rulers when there is no immediate prospect of a change in government. West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry had all gone to the polls in April-May this year, and the by-elections of last week were not expected to deviate from the general election trend. Even so, the huge victories of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the BJP in Assam, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, and the Congress in Puducherry speak to renewed levels of enthusiasm for the ruling establishment. That ruling party legislators are better equipped to deal with constituency-level issues would not have been lost on the voters in the Assembly by-elections. In the by-elections to the Lok Sabha, the BJP won one each in Madhya Pradesh and Assam, but lost to the Trinamool in West Bengal. But even here, the BJP increased its vote share considerably, finishing ahead of the Left Front in Cooch Behar. While there is no doubt that the people have reposed their faith in Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, there was no logical basis to her explanation of the electoral outcome as a “people’s revolt” against the demonetisation move of the BJP-led government at the Centre. Regional factors related to the performance of State governments seem to have influenced the results, rather than any overarching theme. The results are no endorsement of the demonetisation decision either, as the BJP would like people to believe.
Besides the byelection in Thiruparankundram, Tamil Nadu had polls in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, where elections had been deferred by the Election Commission following widespread distribution of cash for votes. Whether due to the demonetisation or the lower stakes in the deferred elections, there was reportedly a reduced flow of currency notes, and a less intense campaign. In Puducherry, the election was more important for the Congress than for any other party, as Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy was in the fray. A loss would have forced him to resign, and caused acute embarrassment to the party. In Tripura, which is under the rule of the Left Front, the CPI(M) had no difficulty in picking up Barjala and Khowai, wresting the former from the Congress. Amid the gloom induced by the results in neighbouring West Bengal, this provided some solace to the Left. But if there is one lesson to be drawn from this round of polling, it is that by-elections are not pointers to how an Assembly or Lok Sabha election will turn out, but the latter are usually good pointers to how by-elections will turn out.

Source : By-elections as pointers
Courtesy : The Hindu – Editorials

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