Results of by-elections indicate BJP on backfoot in Bihar

Its candidate won by a slender margin in its pocket borough Gopalganj while the RJD candidate triumphed in Mokama

Representative Image
Representative Image

Arun Srivastava/IPA

Winning the Gopalganj seat in the latest Assembly by-election held in Bihar is purely a consolation gift for the BJP. Its candidate Kusum Devi won by a slender margin of 1,794 votes, defeating RJD's Mohan Prasad Gupta. She received 70,053 votes against Gupta’s 68,259 votes.

An attempt is being made by the media to set the narrative that the first electoral test for the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan government, formed barely three months ago after Nitish parted ways with the BJP, does not enjoy the trust of the people. This is incorrect.

Gopalganj has been BJP’s pocket borough since 2005. It had won the seat in 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020 with comfortable margins. In 2020, the margin was over 36,000 in 2020. Subhas Singh won the seat after polling around 78,000 votes.

This time, the BJP candidate, who, incidentally, is the wife of deceased Subhas Singh, could not get the 8000 votes margin bagged by her husband in 2020.

This fall in the BJP vote is also significant for the reason that in 2020, the then Mahagathbandhan candidate, a nominee of the Congress, had polled 36,460 votes. In that election too, Sadhu Yadav’s candidate, contesting election as a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) nominee, had got 41,500 votes.

Obviously, the performance of the BJP in this election indicates that it has actually lost ground to the rejuvenated Mahagathbandhan under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. While the Mahagathbandhan candidate secured 68,259 votes, Sadhu’s wife got 12,000 votes.

The RJD fielded Mohan Gupta, while Indira Yadav, wife of Lalu Yadav’s brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav, contested as a BSP candidate. The decline in margin of victory has been quite distressing for the BJP. Though the state president of the BJP hailed the victory as significant, it cannot be denied that the BJP candidate scraped through with a margin of just 1,794 votes.

The BJP could retain Gopalganj only because the AIMIM put up Abdul Salam, who bagged over 12,000 votes.

Another factor was that Lalu’s estranged brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav fielded his wife Indira Yadav as a BSP candidate. She polled around 9,000 votes. These votes were anti-BJP in nature.

While the AIMIM managed to cut into the RJD’s Muslim support base, Sadhu’s wife lured a section of the Yadavs and a section of Dalits. A significant chunk of these 21,000 votes were supposed to go to RJD.

A significant development that has surfaced in the wake of this bye-election is the shifting away of a section of the Muslim votes from the RJD to the AIMIM. It is certain that the shift would not have a major impact on the Muslim-Yadav axis evolved by Lalu Yadav, but the schism would undoubtedly shake the confidence of the Muslims.

The prime reason for the split in the Muslims seems to be the fact that Tejashwi Yadav did not take wife of gangster Shahabuddin into confidence before fielding Gupta as the RJD candidate. Gopalganj has a substantial Muslim population and the close aides of Shahabuddin claim that they are devoted to him. After his death, the Muslims treat his wife as their leader.

The supporters of Shahabuddin had strongly lobbied for a Muslim face as the RJD candidate. But past experiences had made Tejashwi tread cautiously. With a RJD Muslim candidate in the fray, the Hindu votes used to polarise in favour of BJP.

The area, which is home to a strong network of the RSS, has always been prone to communal clashes. Often the goons of Shahabuddin would have bloody clashes with the Hindu gangsters. Though Shahabuddin operated from Siwan, his home town, Gopalganj is in close vicinity.

Tejashwi had put a number of prominent Muslim faces in the war, but they evidently could not counter the influence of Shahabuddin and his wife.        

Thus, the fact is that the lotus did not bloom in Bihar. Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal claimed, “Our seat remained with us while the RJD retained its seat. Politics in Bihar is now polarised between the BJP and the RJD.” But he is not correct in his evaluation.

The BJP would now focus on the Kudhani Assembly bypoll in December. The seat was held by the RJD.

Meanwhile, in the Mokama by-election, both the BJP and the RJD had fielded the wives of local musclemen. The BJP nominee Sonam Devi was up against RJD's Neelam Devi, whose husband Anant Singh's disqualification had necessitated the bye-election. Anant Singh had won the seat twice on JD(U) tickets and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had appealed to the voters to support him.

Neelam Devi went on to defeat her BJP rival by a margin of more than 16,000 votes. She polled 79,744 votes, while Sonam Devi got 63,003.

Interestingly, the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Paras, a Union minister, and his party's acting president Surajbhan Singh, a former Mokama MLA, had campaigned for the BJP candidate. Even Ram Vilas’s son, who is not on talking terms with his uncle Paras, also campaigned intensively for the saffron party.

(IPA Service)

Views are personal

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines