Patna: The RJD on Wednesday won the Araria Lok Sabha seat in Bihar as well the Jehanabad assembly constituency while BJP bagged the Bhabhua assembly segment in bypolls that were considered the first electoral test after Nitish Kumar dumped the Grand Alliance and joined hands with BJP last year.
The outcome is bad news for Chief Minister Kumar whose party candidate Abhiram Sharma was beaten in Jehanabad by more than 35,000 votes by RJD’s Suday Yadav. While BJP fielded candidates in Araria and Bhabhua, the JD (U) was in the fray in Jehanabad, which is nearly 60 km from capital Patna. In Araria, RJD’s Sarfaraz Alam defeated his nearest BJP rival Pradip Kumar Singh by over 60,000 votes. Alam had crossed over from JD (U) to Lalu Prasad’s party to contest the bypoll necessitated by the death of his father and RJD MP Mohammad Taslimuddin on September 17, 2017.
In Jehanabad, RJD’s winner Suday Yadav is son of Mundrika Singh Yadav, former state minister and a close associate of Lalu Prasad, whose death necessitated the byelection. BJP’s Rinki Rani Pandey, wife of Anand Bhusan Pandey whose death caused the bypoll, defeated Congress rival Shambhu Singh Patel by about 14,000 votes in Bhabhua. Though the results will have no numerical consequence either in Parliament or on the health of the JD (U)-BJP coalition ministry in Bihar, the bypolls were seen as a litmus test for Kumar. The results are a boost to Tejaswi Yadav, younger son of Lalu Prasad, who spearheaded the party campaign in the absence of his father who is in Ranchi jail in connection with fodder scam cases. The bypolls were held on March 11.
Notably, JD (U) – headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar – had initially announced that it would not take part in the by-elections. However, following infighting within the NDA which saw HAM leader Jitan Ram Manjhi moving to the opposition camp and an appeal by the BJP, JD (U) agreed to enter the fray from the seat it had won in 2010 assembly polls with ally BJP.
Reacting angrily to the result in Bhabhua, Congress MLA Munna Tiwari charged legislature party leader Sadanand Singh with “choosing a candidate of his personal choice, sacrificing the interests of the party”. RJD general secretary and MLA Bhola Yadav claimed “the results prove that people of Bihar have made up their mind to say good-bye to the NDA”.
Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, however, rubbished the suggestion and underscored that candidates in all the three seats won because of sympathy wave in favour of the deceased incumbents. “Why else would the Congress, backed by the RJD, lose in Bhabhua,” he asked. JD (U) spokesman and MLC Neeraj Kumar said, “We do politics on our own terms, without compromising on principles. The RJD, against which we were pitted, is sitting on pots of money. It is headed by Lalu Prasad who is in jail for corruption. Its heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav was born with a silver spoon in his mouth”.