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Bypoll teaser for Assembly

Patna, Aug. 9: Parties are pulling out all stops to bag as many of the 10 seats up for grabs next month, but bypolls have seldom served as a precursor to Assembly polls.

While Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are treating the August 21 bypolls as a testing ground for their collective strength, the BJP is using it to measure its resurgence ahead of the 2015 Assembly polls.

Burying their 20-year-long hostility, Nitish and Lalu got their parties — JDU and RJD — to strike a common cause against the NDA, which made them bite the dust by winning 31 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats in May. The two parties have also taken the Congress on board to add muscle to their battle against the BJP.

The BJP, which had won six of the 10 seats in 2010, is believed to be trying to retain its tally. Insiders feel loss of its candidates to the RJD-JDU-Congress alliance would be interpreted as the success of Lalu-Nitish’s combined strength and waning out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP’s charisma at the grassroots.

But bypolls — be it for the Lok Sabha or Assembly — have seldom played as a semi-final or a precursor to the subsequent major elections. An apt example would be five Assembly seats that went for a bypolls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.

Lalu’s RJD suffered a huge defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. Though the party retained its 2009 tally of four MPs, Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti lost in the RJD chief’s strongholds of Saran and Pataliputra. But the RJD was a clear winner in bypolls to five Assembly seats, bagging three of the five seats. It wrested north Bihar’s Baisi and Chiraiya Assembly seats from the BJP and Sahebpur Kamal from the JDU.

“RJD’s victory in the Chiraiya Assembly seat was inexplicable in the sense that the segment was part of the East Champaran Lok Sabha seat that BJP’s Radhamohan Singh won. Radhamohan had led in the Lok Sabha segment, while RJD’s LNP Yadav won the Assembly segment, proving that the same people voted either way,” said a senior RJD leader.

The June 2013 Lok Sabha bypoll result for north Bihar’s Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat was another case in point.

The RJD’s Prabhunath Singh defeated the JDU-BJP’s joint nominee, P.K. Shahi, by 1.37 lakh votes prompting the pundits to predict a comeback of Lalu’s magic in the 2014 polls. But Prabhunath lost the same Maharajganj seat to BJP’s Janardan Singh Sigriwal by over a lakh votes.