Patna: The faltering Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has received a shot in the arm in Bihar, after bagging two of the five assembly seats in bypoll results declared Thursday. The results were a setback for the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance as it managed to win just one seat. The two parties had held four of the five seats; the Congress had the other.
The bypolls were called as the sitting MLAs had resigned to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Of the five, the RJD won in Simri Bakhtiarpur and Belhar, the JD(U) in Nathnagar, an Independent won in Daraunda while the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM sprung a major surprise, bagging the Kishanganj assembly constituency and signalling its entry into the state’s politics.
The consolation for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came in the lone Lok Sabha bypoll that saw the Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP retain the Samastipur (reserved) parliamentary constituency. The bypoll had been necessitated by the death of sitting MP Ram Chandra Paswan; his son, Prince Raj, managed to defeat the Congress’ Ashok Ram by a comfortable margin.
Boost for RJD
There is a quiet celebration in the RJD camp, demolarised by the Lok Sabha drubbing and the absence of its prominent leader Tejashwi Yadav. The wresting of two seats from the JD(U) takes the party’s tally in the assembly to 80 seats.
“It is great relief that the misconceptions built around the NDA during the Lok Sabha polls are evaporating,” RJD MLA Alok Mehta, a close associate of Tejashwi Yadav.
“It is a message for CM Nitish Kumar as people have raised question marks on his governance where crime is on the rise and claims of development were exposed by the Patna deluge.”
There is, however, a realisation in the RJD that the party must build on this victory if it hopes to pose a serious challenge to the NDA in the 2020 assembly polls.
The other winner was Owaisi’s AIMIM as the party has opened its account in Bihar. The AIMIM had fielded six candidates in Muslim-dominated seats in the 2015 assembly polls but drew a blank.
It wrested Kishanganj, which has 70 per cent Muslim population, from the Congress.
Loss of face for JD(U)
The JD(U) has had the worst of the bypoll results. It contested four of the five bypolls but managed to win at only Nathnagar. The BJP had contested in Kishanganj. The losses reduce the NDA tally to 129 MLAs from the earlier 132 in the 243-member House.
While the bypolls were held in the backdrop of BJP president Amit Shah making it clear that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be NDA’s leader in the 2020 assembly bid, the losses are set to increase pressure on the chief minister.
Nitish has off late been struggling to handle a more assertive state BJP unit that wants a greater share of the pie in the 2020 assembly polls. “Now the results show that people are no longer enthusiastic about Nitish as the chief minister,” remarked a BJP leader.
JD(U) leaders, however, were in denial mode after the results.
“Bypolls are fought on local issues and we will analyse our mistakes. There is no anger against Nitish Kumar,” said JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh.
He cited the 2009 bypolls when the NDA lost nine of the 13 assembly seats before going on to win 206 of the 243 seats in 2010 assembly elections.