How strategy of ‘Opposition unity’ ensured BJP’s defeat in Kairana bypoll

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New Delhi: The importance of the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recently concluded Kairana by-election is not lost on the party. A bevy of senior ministers from the BJP, chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi all campaigned for this by-election. ( Modi technically launched a project after the last day of campaigning in nearby Baghpat, but the speech he gave clearly demonstrates Kairana was on his mind.)
A grand coalition of “BJP opposition parties” — the Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — banded together to contest against the BJP this time.
Kairana is right next to Muzaffarnagar, the location of the riots between the Jat and Muslim communities that propelled the BJP to historic victory margins in the area during the 2014 national election. In 2014, the BJP won by a whopping 2.4 lakh votes over the nearest party in Kairana.
Amazingly, the coalition decided that the RLD, a Jat-dominated party, would field a Muslim candidate, trying to bridge the divide between two communities that clearly do not get along.
In stark contrast to the BJP, the grand coalition ran a more demure campaign buttressed by local RLD leaders while big names in the coalition like Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati barely even acknowledged an election was taking place.
A victory over the BJP in Kairana, everyone agreed before the election, would demonstrate that a grand coalition strategy could defeat the most extreme forms of communal polarization. When all was said and done, the coalition garnered 51.2% of the vote and defeated the BJP by more than 40,000 votes.
This is not just a blip for the BJP. It’s a part of a more worrying trend. Like Kairana, the grand coalition bested the BJP in recent by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, widely perceived to be BJP strongholds.

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