|Former chief minister Nitish Kumar with his supporters after declaration of bypoll results in Patna on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, Aug. 25: The BJP’s reverses in the bypolls for the 10 Assembly seats today strengthened the belief that the unity of the “secular” forces was the key to success against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led political order.
The 27-day-old grand alliance of JDU-RJD-Congress bagged six seats against the BJP’s four — two less than its 2010 tally. What has hurt the BJP the most is its loss in Bhagalpur — a traditional bastion of the RSS that the BJP had retained consistently from 1967 to 1980 and again from 1990 to 2010.
Congress candidate Ajit Sharma virtually destroyed the citadel of the BJP-RSS that had set its foot in the silk city in 1960s. The RSS has been running 21 sakhas across its 51 urban wards, primarily populated by Brahmins and Banias and believed to be the BJP’s traditional vote base. Sharma defeated the BJP’s Nabhay Choudhary by 17,229 votes.
The BJP candidate, Shahnawaz Hussain, had lost the Bhagalpur Lok Sabha seat but had registered a lead of over 35,000 votes in the Bhagalpur Assembly segment.
Another significant loss of the BJP was in the Chhapra Assembly segment of Saran Lok Sabha seat, where the party’s MP, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, had got a lead of over 40,000 votes over Rabri Devi during the Lok Sabha polls. Even Lalu Prasad invariably trailed in this urban segment despite winning five times in the past. The RJD’s Randhir Singh humbled BJP’s Kanhaiya Singh by an emphatic margin of 24,106 votes.
The NDA’s most stunning defeat was in Parbatta, where its LJP candidate Suheli Mehta forfeited her security deposit. The JDU’s R.N. Singh won the seat by 56,990 votes.
The BJP had a solace in winning Mohania and Narkatiaganj constituencies, where it had trailed in the 2014 general election despite the Modi wave. But the party lost four of the six seats it had won in 2010. While the RJD retained its 2010 tally of three seats, the JDU won two against one and the Congress one against none in the 2010 Assembly polls.
The by-elections for the 10 seats had virtually turned out to be the referendum on the newly found Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad’s “Bharat Milap (friendship)” after 20 years of estrangement and also the “semi-final” of the Assembly elections, due next year. The electorate, for now at least, have put their stamp of approval on the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance, emboldening its partners to follow up on their experiment in a more spirited manner. On the other hand, the voters rejected BJP’s star campaigner Sushil Kumar Modi’s description of Lalu-Nitish unity as a prelude to jungle raj-II (lawlessness-II).
Lalu, who was away in Mumbai for his heart check-up with his wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti, tweeted, “Hamari sarkar punjipati nahin garib chalate hain, es liye hamara garib raj unko jungle raj lagta hai (Not the capitalists, the poor people run my government. That’s why it looks like jungle raj to them).”
Nitish, who quit as the chief minister owning moral responsibility of his party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls and was in a state of loss, was visibly upbeat today. He described the results as the “victory of forces of love, brotherhood and social harmony against the ones fomenting frenzy and division”. “Sadbhav ki jeet hai aur unmad phailane walon ki haar. Dekhiye aage aage kya hota hai (It is the victory of harmony and defeat of the authors of frenzy. See what happens in the days to follow),” he said, indicating that he would carry on with his “mission” to unite the non-BJP forces against his archrival Narendra Modi.
His successor, chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, said: “We are happy at the results though we had expected to win all the 10 seats. Getting 60 per cent marks amounts to passing an examination in first division. It is a great win for the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance).”
Visibly dejected, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, said: “The result is below our expectations. We expected to win at least six of the 10 seats. But Nitish’s celebration is misplaced. It was a by-election fought on local issues and local social equations that had nothing to do with the general election. We shall examine the cause of the party’s relatively poor show and come out stronger in the Assembly elections next year.”
Sushil was not entirely off the mark. For, the state’s electoral history seldom had the by-election results replicating in the main elections. Much water will flow down the Ganga ahead of the Assembly polls, offering the BJP opportunity to rework its mathematics and test the contradictions in the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance.
As of now, the victory of the JDU-RJD-Congress’s grand alliance, according to the political observers, has given the regional parties in the country and also the Congress, which suffered humiliation at the hands of Modi three months ago, the hope that they could bounce back against the BJP if they put their act together the way Lalu and Nitish did.