BJP draws a blank in Assembly bypolls in four states
The BJP drew a blank in Assembly bypolls in four states on Saturday, with victorious rivals asserting that the outcome was an outpouring of people’s anger and a rejection of the politics of hate.
In Bihar, the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) blew away the BJP in the Bochaha Assembly bypoll, beating it by 36,653 votes.
RJD’s Amar Paswan bagged 82,562 votes while the BJP’s Baby Kumari got 45,909 votes. Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) nominee Geeta Kumari polled 29,279 votes. The VIP was thrown out of the ruling NDA last month.
The bypoll was necessitated by the death of VIP lawmaker Musafir Paswan. RJD candidate Amar Paswan is his son. Baby Kumari is the daughter of RJD leader Ramai Ram, a nine-term former MLA from Bochaha in Muzaffarpur district.
“Nobody had ever won this seat by such a huge margin. This is the love of the people for my father and their tribute to him. He and my family had always provided full cooperation to the NDA but it left us out in the cold after his death. It ignored our family’s image of honesty and integrity and gave the ticket to a corruption accused,” Amar told journalists.
The bypoll had become a prestige fight for the BJP after it ousted the Mukesh Sahani-led VIP from the NDA. All three VIP MLAs joined the BJP in March. Soon after, Sahani was dropped from Nitish Kumar’s cabinet.
Sahani was all smiles despite losing the seat. “I am a son of a mallah (boatmen, fishermen community). I don’t drown but those who are not with us sink,” he said.
The actions were seen as the fallout of Sahani’s decision to contest the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on his own, disregarding the BJP’s request not to do so. Sahani had fielded a candidate from Bochaha and vowed to defeat the NDA nominee.
Congress candidate Tarun Chaudhary could muster only 1,336 votes, much less than even the 2,967 NOTA votes.
The RJD’s win improves its tally in the Assembly to 76, just one short of largest party BJP that has 77 MLAs. Nitish’s Janata Dal United (JDU) is at the third place with 45 seats.
RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav thanked the public and said: “The public, suffering from unemployment, inflation and poor education, health facilities, agriculture and law and order, have defeated the anti-people, arrogant double-engine government and the four parties in the opportunist NDA.”
Several BJP leaders asserted that the Bochaha result was “not a victory of the RJD but a tribute of the local voters to Musafir Paswan”. No BJP senior, however, publicly commented on the electoral setback.
The Bochaha result indicates that the public in the rural hinterland of Bihar has not been swayed by the communal controversies buffetting several parts of the country.
The result makes it clear that the RJD has secured upper caste votes too in large numbers, especially those of the Bhumihar caste that dominates Bochaha.
The electoral outcome has ignited the belief that the frustration over multiple socio-economic issues could lead to the general castes moving away from the BJP.
The VIP securing over 29,000, or 17 per cent, of the votes indicates that it could emerge as a force to reckon with in future elections. The Nishad or Mallah community constitutes around 8 per cent of Bihar’s population and Sahani’s resurgence could spell trouble for the NDA.
The Congress on Saturday won the by-election to the Kolhapur North Assembly constituency in Maharashtra, retaining the seat by defeating the BJP by over 19,000 votes. The Congress is a constituent of the ruling Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) combine.
Jayashri thanked the voters and said all three constituents of the MVA had worked together to clinch the victory. Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole said it was a “victory of progressive thoughts”, defeating those who were creating “religious hatred” to divert attention from inflation, unemployment, poverty and the problems faced by small farmers and traders.
The ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh on Saturday won the bypoll to the Khairagarh Assembly constituency, defeating the BJP by 20,176 votes. The constituency had fallen vacant following the death of the sitting JCC (J) MLA.