Express News Service
PATNA: Results of the bypolls in Bihar, being the first elections after the ruling JD(U) dumped RJD and formed a government in alliance with BJP nearly eight months ago, have rung warning bells for the state’s ruling NDA.
The bypoll results also indicate that RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s magic mix of social justice and identity politics has not lost its charm on the people of Bihar despite the leader being locked up in jail for about three months.
In the absence of Lalu, whose previously shining halo as Bihar’s tallest leader has dimmed after he was convicted in three fodder scam cases, his young son Tejashwi Yadav led the campaigns in the bypolls for RJD-Congress combine. These were the first elections in Bihar in about 25 years when Lalu was away from the campaigns. RJD’s emphatic victories in Muslim-dominated Araria Lok Sabha constituency and the Jehanabad Assembly constituency proved that Tejashwi, 29, is no less skilled a political player than his father.
Since the main poll plank of NDA – JD(U), BJP, LJP and RLSP – in these bypolls was the development and public welfare projects undertaken by the Nitish Kumar-led government, the loss in Araria and Jehanabad was particularly shocking for NDA. All NDA leaders had claimed before and after the polls that these two seats and the Bhabhua Assembly seat would be won by NDA candidates. Bhabhua was the saving grace as BJP candidate Rinky Rani Yadav beat Congress’s Shambhu Patel to retain the seat her late husband had won in the 2015 Assembly polls.
Tejashwi, 29, a first-time MLA who served as deputy chief minister for 20 months in the grand alliance government, left no stones unturned in projecting NDA in Bihar as the “immoral hijacker of people’s mandate”. In several hugely attended rallies he addressed during the campaigns, he sought to drive home the point that Nitish Kumar committed “the biggest crime in democracy” by allying with BJP, which had lost Bihar’s 2015 Assembly polls to the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance despite the massive victory for NDA in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“There is no loss or gain for anyone in these bypolls as the parties just retained the seats they were holding earlier,” said Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai. Many in BJP were, however, worried that the message sent across by the bypoll result was that the state’s people accept Tejashwi’s contention about Nitish Kumar’s “betrayal of mandate”.
Mahadalit leader and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who tore his HAM party off NDA just days before the bypolls, said: “These results reflect Nitish Kumar’s defeat. The ban on alcoholic liquor has put many thousands of poor people in jails and the government’s new sand mining policy has hit poor construction workers. The people voted against an anti-people government”.