Determined Efforts By Lalu Yadav’s RJD To Post Bypoll Victories End Unsuccessfully, NDA Wins Both Bihar Seats

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Nov 3, 2021 12:58 AM +05:30 IST
Determined Efforts By Lalu Yadav’s RJD To Post Bypoll Victories End Unsuccessfully, NDA Wins Both Bihar SeatsBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (L) with Amit Shah. (K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images)
  • After the 2020 Assembly polls, the NDA’s strength in the Assembly was 125 while the former Mahagathbandhan was at 116.

    JD(U) twin victories in the recent bypolls almost certainly save Bihar from a period of political instability.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) pulled out all stops and mounted an aggressive campaign to wrest the Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur seats, bypolls to which were held on October 30, from the Janata Dal (United).

But the JD(U) candidates in both the seats, bypolls to which were necessitated by the deaths of their sitting MLAs from the JD(U), sailed home comfortably.

The RJD, which emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly elections held in November last year, was determined to bag both the seats. A defeat inflicted on the JD(U), it felt, would deal a psychological blow to chief minister Nitish Kumar and weaken the NDA.

Apart from launching a high-decibel campaign and deploying all its star campaigners to canvass for its candidates, the RJD also flew in its ailing supremo, Lalu Yadav, from Delhi to campaign in the two seats.

Lalu Yadav, who was released from prison a few months ago, had been recuperating at the Delhi home of his daughter Misa, a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar. He required constant medical care for his multiple ailments.

But his heir apparent and younger son Tejashwi prevailed upon him to return to Bihar and campaign for the party’s candidates. An ailing and jaded Lalu Yadav obliged his younger son, but came across as a pale shadow of his former self (read this).

Tejashwi Yadav made the bypolls a prestige battle and expended huge resources to win. He also launched personal attacks on Nitish Kumar, accusing the latter of not delivering on his promises and doing nothing for Bihar’s development.

Tejashwi Yadav, who fancies himself as a chief minister-in-waiting, campaigned extensively in both the seats and promised to take Bihar back to the “glorious days of Lalu Yadav’s rule”. But there were not enough takers for a return to Lalu’s ‘jungle raj’.

The RJD, in its zeal to wrest these two seats from the JD(U), alienated the Congress and drove it out of the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). The Congress had been allotted the Kusheshwar Asthan constituency to contest from in the Assembly elections held in November last year.

The Congress candidate, Ashok Kumar, lost to the JD(U)’s Shashi Bhushan Hazari in Kusheshwar Asthan by a little over 7,000 votes. Hazari died in July this year, thus necessitating the bypolls.

The RJD contended that the Congress would definitely lose if it contested the bypolls and that an RJD candidate stood a much better chance. State Congress leaders initially agreed to withdraw from the seat, but the party’s central leaders intervened and insisted on contesting.

This led to a lot of bitterness between the RJD and the Congress, leading to the latter declaring its break from the mahagathbandhan.

Ultimately, the JD(U)’s Aman Bhushan Hazari (son of the deceased Shashi Bhusan Hazari) won Kusheshwar Asthan by bagging 59,887 votes--12,695 votes more than the RJD’s Ganesh Bharti. The JD(U), thus, increased its victory margin.

The Congress’ Aritrek Kumar got a measly 5,603 votes, less than even the Lok Janshakti Party candidate who polled 20 more votes than Kumar.

The JD(U)’s Rajiv Kumar Singh retained the Tarapur seat for his party by defeating the RJD’s Arun Kumar Sah by 2,399 votes. In the November 2020 Assembly elections, the JD(U)’s Melawal Chaudhury had defeated RJD’s Divya Prakash by 7,225 votes.

The RJD, which had bagged 75 seats in the November 2020 elections and emerged as the single largest party, was confident of increasing its tally by wresting both these seats from the JD(U).

The RJD’s calculation was that the loss of two seats would bring the JD(U)’s tally down to 41, thus inflicting a lot of humiliation on Nitish Kumar’s party which had been smarting from being reduced to a junior partner in the NDA with the BJP winning 74 seats.

Many in the JD(U) believe that some senior BJP leaders had propped Chirag Paswan of the LJP to field candidates against the JD(U) in last year’s election, thus splitting the NDA votes and leading to the defeat of JD(U) candidates by narrow margins in many constituencies.

These JD(U) leaders believe that the BJP did this intentionally in order to weaken the JD(U) and reduce it to the status of a junior partner in the ruling alliance.

The RJD thought that a humiliated JD(U) would become vulnerable and a split could then be engineered in the party with a breakaway faction supporting the RJD-led mahagathbandhan which would then make a bid for power in the state.

After the 2020 Assembly polls, the NDA’s strength in the Assembly was 125 while the Mahagathbandhan had 116 MLAs. If the RJD could have won the two seats from the JD(U), the number of mahagathbandhan MLAs would have gone up to 118 and the NDA’s tally would have come down to 123.

With the JD(U)’s strength in the Assembly down to 41, the RJD assumed that it would not be very difficult to woo a sizable number of legislators and break the JD(U). The RJD had also assumed that it would be easy to win back the Congress into the mahagathbandhan given the close ties between Lalu Yadav and Sonia Gandhi.

But all those plans have gone awry. By being over-ambitious, Tejashwi Yadav has also weakened the mahagathbandhan that his father had painstakingly stitched. The bypoll results should serve as a wake-up call, and a reality check, for the junior Yadav.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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