UP-Bihar By-Polls (Part 1): 3 Winners and 3 Losers

By-polls! Indian politics is getting very excited. The discontent of voters seems to be now turning into anger. If recent election results are anything...

Indian politics is getting very exciting. The discontent of voters seems to be now turning into anger. If recent election results are anything to go by, regime change seems to be in the air.

The outcomes of the by-polls in UP and Bihar have also captured headlines. According to me, there are 3 winners – Mayawati, RJD and Caste, and 3 losers – Nitish, Congress and BJP. More importantly, there are 3 takeaways and a warning – which we will cover in the next column and video.

3 Winners


Without contesting either of the two UP seats in Phulpur or Gorakhpur, Mayawati is the biggest winner. By ensuring a transfer of her votes to SP, she has shown she holds the trump card in deciding who wins UP and therefore India. Her asking price will see an extra zero now added to it.


Without Lalu Prasad Yadav, it was expected that his party would fade away. This has not happened. It retained the Araria Lok Sabha seat in Bihar. The RJD is very much alive and kicking, and has the potential to hurt BJP’s Bihar ambitions.

Caste Politics

Without the feel-good of jobs and economic growth, it is caste that counts in the Hindi heartland. This is because people perhaps feel a sense of dhoka setting in against the BJP whom they trusted with a handsome mandate in 2014 and in the UP assembly elections of 2017.

3 Losers

Nitish Kumar

Because Nitish’s JD(U) failed to transfer its votes to the BJP, there will surely be a rethink in the BJP about the alliance. Nitish has lost face with this defeat and given an opening to a leaderless RJD.


Because it really had no business contesting the UP by-polls, Congress too has suffered. It is better off pulling out from UP and Bihar to prevent a division of the anti-BJP votes, and focus on fighting the 150 Lok Sabha seats where it is the principal opponent of the BJP.


Because headline management and narrative control is so important for the BJP, it had no business losing the two important seats in UP. Politics is all about perception, and the aura of invincibility is slowly breaking in the land which delivered most its seats.


There are also 3 takeaways for the BJP – it needs 50% voteshare, which will not come via division, and so it needs a switch to prosperity. The warning is in the form of a reminder to Narendra Modi of a promise he had made in the 2014 campaign – which he has forgotten, but voters have not. Stay tuned for this next column and video.