PATNA: With the Election Commission on Friday announcing the schedule for bypolls for one Lok Sabha and two Assembly constituencies in Bihar, difficult permutation and combination exercises began in both the ruling NDA and the Opposition UPA camps in the state’s altered political situation.
The bypolls for Araria LS constituency in eastern Bihar and the Assembly seats of Bhabua and Jehanabad in the south will be held on March 11, and counting of votes will be held on March 14. The Araria seat fell vacant in September 2017 when RJD veteran and sitting MP Mohammad Taslimuddin, a former Union minister, died after an illness. Bhabua’s BJP legislator Anand Bhushan Pandey and Jehanabad’s RJD legislator Mundrika Yadav died following illness in November and October last.
While the 2014 LS polls in Bihar had witnessed a triangular contest as JD(U), the BJP-led NDA and the Opposition RJD-Congress combine had all contested separately, the 2015 Assembly polls saw a direct contest between the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance and the BJP-led NDA. The grand alliance ran the state government for 20 months till July 2017 when JD(U) deserted it and allied with BJP.
While the ruling JD(U) and BJP are at a loss as to who to field in Muslim-dominated Araria, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav indicated on Friday that his party would field candidates in all the three seats. Congress, which had staked claim to the seat in November last, was shocked by Yadav’s statement in Ranchi.
In the 2014 LS polls, when BJP and its allies won 31 of Bihar’s 40 LS seats, Taslimuddin had defeated Araria’s sitting BJP MP Pradip Kumar by a margin of over two lakh votes, pushing JD(U)’s Vijay Kumar Mandal to the third spot. JD(U), contesting on its own, had won just two LS seats in Bihar while RJD and Congress, contesting in alliance, bagged four and two seats respectively.
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, an NDA partner, is also keen on contesting the Araria seat. LJP’s Zakir Hussain was beaten by BJP’s Pradip Kumar by about 23,000 votes in the 2009 LS polls. While JD(U) plans to field Taslimuddin’s son and sitting JD(U) legislator Sarfaraz Alam, BJP is reportedly adamant on fielding its own candidate.