With Jharkhand and Bihar Assembly elections just two and 12 months from now the biggest loss of face after the Maharashtra and Haryana verdict is not only for the BJP and its ally, Janata Dal United but also for all those independent political observers and journalists who have been painting a very bleak picture of Congress and RJD since May 23 last.
Those busy writing obituaries of opposition parties in the country were not only surprised by the way people voted in two states––Maharashtra and Haryana––but also over the rout of the NDA in Bihar, where it could win only one out of the five Assembly by-polls held on Oct 21. The lone seat which the Janata Dal United could win is Nathnagar in Bhagalpur, and that too by a slender margin of 3460 votes and after allegations of irregularities in counting.
However, there is a small consolation for the Lok Janshakti Party as its candidate Prince Raj, son of late MP Ram Chandra Paswan, managed to defeat Congress party’s Dr Ashok Ram in Samastipur Lok Sabha by-election. Election was necessitated after the death of Ram Chandra Paswan, younger brother of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
All the five Assembly by-polls were held because the sitting MLAs got elected to Lok Sabha. Four of these belonged to Janata Dal United and one to Congress.
When leaderless and demoralised Congress and Nationalist Congress Party can do so well in Maharashtra and Haryana, RJD in Bihar managed to snatch two seats from ruling Janata Dal United . This had happened when the Grand Alliance was in disarray and many of its leaders were questioning the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav.
If in this worst phase the RJD can wrest two seats from the NDA it is certainly alarming for the latter. RJD was in the news for all the wrong reasons after the May last Lok Sabha poll. Tejashwi’s brother Tej Pratap had landed the family in great trouble by moving court to seek divorce with his newly wed wife Ashwariya Rai. Ailing party supremo Lalu Prasad is still in jail and there was no strong party machinery left at the grassroots level. Tejashwi, his mother Rabri Devi and sister Misa Bharati are facing corruption charges. Yet the NDA had to face such a result.
If the BJP had tried to cultivate non-Jat and non-Maratha votes in Haryana and Maharashtra in Bihar it tried to isolate the Muslim-Yadav alliance. But it seems that like in those two states here too the move is now not working.
Similar is the case in Jharkhand where the saffron party made Raghubar Das, a Teli, the chief minister overlooking the traditional claim of the Adivasis, which form about 27 per cent of votes. If the present trend continues tribal factor may work against the BJP in the coming assembly election.
What is of concern for the NDA is that it could not win even the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj seat, where the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen candidate Qamarul Hoda defeated BJP’s Sweety Singh. The BJP failed to exploit the division between the Congress and AIMIM here though the constituency has about 35 per cent Hindu votes. Sweety lost by about 10,000 votes––that is by much larger margin than in 2009 and 2014.
It needs to be mentioned that the RJD won two seats when other Grand Alliance partners Vikassheel Insan Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha fielded their candidates.
In contrast the NDA tried to put up a united show in all the constituencies, barring Dharaunda Assembly segment of Siwan where an Independent Karamjit Singh, won. In fact he defeated JDU’s Ajay Singh by a margin of over 27,000 votes. Here the NDA fought as a divided house as Karamjit is the Siwan district vice president of the BJP and contested as a rebel.
He threw his hat in the ring on the plea that Ajay is a dreaded criminal. Ajay got the JDU ticket after his MLA wife Kavita Singh got elected to Lok Sabha last May.
Curiously, the result came when the Janata Dal United was planning to expand its influence in Jharkhand and Delhi, which too is going to witness election early next year. Last week Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was in Delhi on the run up to election there. He called for the full statehood to Delhi.
The Janata Dal United is pinning its hope on about three million voters from Bihar. But if the party could not win any seat in Delhi last time it is unlikely to improve its performance this time.
If the BJP has become vulnerable nationally, in Bihar the Janata Dal United has received a serious setback.
The defeat of NDA in Bihar has exposed the differences within the ruling coalition. BJP MLC Tunnaji Pandey has demanded the immediate resignation of Nitish Kumar.
There are many others within the saffron party who have been baying for Nitish’s blood ever since last Lok Sabha election results.
The October 24 results have certainly reduced the bargaining position of Nitish Kumar ahead of next year’s assembly election.