NEW DELHI: Surging crowds at election rallies, especially in states like Bihar, are hardly a barometer of political temperature.
It became clear when the results of the Assembly by-elections to Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur came on Nov 2.
Opposition RJD and Congress star campaigners had drawn huge crowds. However, this did not convert into votes.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad campaigned in the bypolls after a gap of about six years.
The result: the RJD candidate from Kusheshwar Asthan was defeated by the ruling JD-U by a margin of more than 12,000 votes. In Tarapur too, the JD-U won.
Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar and others also campaigned for three days. In both constituencies, the Congress candidates forfeited their deposits.
The most striking similarity among Bihar’s three eligible bachelor politicians — Chirag Paswan, Tejashwi Yadav and Kanhaiya Kumar — is that they draw crowds, but don’t bring in votes.
“Theirs is a model of hurling loud accusations. Secondly, they are largely inaccessible to the common people,” said an observer.
Sociologist Nirmal Kumar says states like Bihar, West Bengal and UP where you have a vast population suffering in poverty, the people generally go out to listen to big politicians at their rallies.
“Lalu, his son Tejashwi, Chirag Paswan, Kanhaiya Kumar and CM Nitish Kumar did well in campaigning. Even when Lalu threatened to do an ‘immersion’ (visarjan) of the Nitish government in the bypolls, Nitish simply countered by a well thought-after line: “He (Lalu) can do nothing except getting me killed, when he wants.”
Nitish’s one-liner refreshed the people’s memories about the 15-year reign of ‘jungle raj’ of Lalu-Rabri,” says Arun Kumar Pandey, a political analyst.
Meanwhile, Nitish on Tuesday asserted that results of the just-concluded by-elections won by his JD(U), were a resounding rejection of the RJD founded and headed by his arch-rival Lalu Prasad who betrayed arrogance and a lack of humility.
Kumar was talking to reporters at the state headquarters of the JD(U) where he joined a function organised to felicitate the victorious debutants Ganesh Bharti and Rajiv Kumar Singh who respectively retained for the party Kusheshwar Asthan (SC) and Tarapur assembly constituencies.
"The by-polls were a sad occasion for us as these were necessitated by the deaths of our sitting MLAs. I have always held that people's will is supreme. They have reposed their trust in us. We will continue serving them as long as the trust continues," Kumar said.
For Kumar, the by-poll outcome has come as a big relief, a year after his party was drubbed in the assembly polls though he returned as the chief minister, enjoying full support of allies.
"Our candidates belonged to the JD(U). But the entire NDA backed them solidly, down to the grassroots level," said Kumar.
Kumar was also asked about the failure of Prasad, who had plunged into campaign himself, despite old age and ill-health, and claimed that the RJD's victory in the by-polls would trigger a "stampede" in the NDA and pave way for a change of guard.
'What can I say about them? What type of language did they use during the elections? There lies the difference. We believe in the supremacy of people. They (Prasad and his family) believe in lording over everybody else. People have made their preference clear, though," Kumar said.
Prasad, who had been the chief minister himself in the 1990s, was succeeded by his homemaker wife Rabri Devi when a charge-sheet in the fodder scam caused him to step down.
His wife occupied the top post for eight years until being voted out of power in 2005.
Convicted in a number of fodder scam cases, Prasad now stand disqualified from contesting elections himself though his younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav has been repeatedly called the "chief ministerial" candidate of the RJD.
(With PTI Inputs)