PATNA: The RJD headed by jailed Lalu Prasad put up a grand show in Bihar by-elections by posting emphatic wins on two of the three seats in what was widely publicized as the “semi final” to the next Lok Sabha polls due in early 2019. The results have surprised the political pundits.
Of the three seats where by-polls were held in the weekend, the RJD won Araria Lok Sabha and Jehanabad assenbly seats whereas the BJP retained Bhabua.
In Araria, RJD candidate Sarfaraz Alam defeated the BJP candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh by over 61,000 votes.
The BJP was initially leading over the RJD candidate but the scene changed very soon with the RJD lead increasing after each round of counting.
Displaying similar performance, RJD candidate Krishna Mohan Yadav defeated JD-U’s Abhiram Sharma by over 35,000 votes in Jehanabad while in Bhabua, BJP candidate Rinki Pandey defeated Congress’ Shambhu Singh Patel by around 15,000 votes.
The by-polls were being viewed as a “litmus test” for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who had walked out of the erstwhile ruling Grand Alliance and returned to the NDA in one of the biggest about-turns in Indian politics in recent past but he failed the test if the results are any indication.
The JD-U initially was not interested in joining the by-polls on the ground that none of the seats going to polls were represented by the party but found itself “trapped” by its ally, the BJP, which requested to field its candidate in Jehanabad.
The move, however, proved disastrous for the JD-U. Observers say while JD-U’s move to contest elections compelled Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) led by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi to dump the NDA, the JD-U itself has lost its “bargaining capacity” by putting up a flop show.
The increase in victory margin amply indicates how voters rudely rejected the JDU and its politics.
In the last 2015 assembly polls while JDU was part of the Grand Alliance, the margin of victory for RJD candidate was only around 30,000 while in the by-elections when nearly half of the voters stayed away from polling process, the victory margin for the RJD increased to over 35,000 votes! Note, this time JDU was contesting elections in the company of the BJP.
It is said the BJP wanted to test the “popularity” of Nitish Kumar in Jehanabad, once considered his “pocket borough”, after he walked out of the Grand Alliance and the result has given “sufficient feedbacks” to the party about the chief minister.
If the mandate is any indication, there is going to be tough days ahead for the JDU in the BJP-led NDA.