PATNA: The stage is set for bypoll to the Kurhani assembly seat in Bihar, which marks the first electoral battle between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the BJP since the two old allies parted ways four months ago.
Altogether 13 candidates are in the fray, and their fates will be decided by 3,11,728 voters though the contest is being seen, primarily, between JD(U)’s Manoj Singh Kushwaha and BJP’s Kedar Gupta, both of whom have won the seat for their respective parties in the not so distant past.
The bypoll, to be held on Monday, was necessitated by the disqualification of RJD MLA Anil Kumar Sahani and the party, which has come to share power after the upheaval in August, has decided to back the chief minister’s party.
Among the many things the bypoll outcome will be indicative of, is the ability of the RJD, the state’s mightiest in terms of numbers in the assembly, to transfer its votes to an ally which it had bitterly fought till recently.
Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, now in Singapore, by the side of his father and RJD president Lalu Prasad who will undergo a kidney transplant on Monday, appeared all too mindful of the challenge when he ran a spirited campaign earlier this week.
From coining a catchy slogan ”chup chaap teer chhap”, to reminding the numerically powerful Yadavs that there was now no difference between the lantern (RJD symbol) and the arrow (JDU), the Deputy CM left no stone unturned in sending across the message that though his party was not fighting the battle, its skin was very much in the game.
Another impediment that may be faced by the ”Mahagathbandhan”, which appears formidable on paper, is a possible split in votes of Muslims by Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM which appeared to have helped the BJP in retaining Gopalganj when bypoll was held in that assembly segment about a month ago.
The BJP, though, has its own share of woes as the pro-upper caste party has always heavily relied on Kumar to get a sizeable slice of the large OBC pie.
The Centre’s refusal to a caste census that counted the OBCs is being vigorously portrayed by the ”Mahagathbandhan” as its indifference, even hostility, towards the Other Backward Classes who have dominated the state’s politics since Mandal.
The issue of caste census was, notably, raised prominently during the campaign by leaders like JD(U) parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha.
Moreover, the BJP fears that a chunk of votes of the Bhumihar community, a powerful upper caste, may go to Vikassheel Insaaan Party of Mukesh Sahani, a former minister who was propped up but later dumped by the BJP.
The VIP’s Neelabh Kumar is a Bhumihar and the fledgling party, which has no member in either House of the state legislature, is claiming to be a front-runner, banking on the support of the upper caste as also fishermen’s caste groups, whose leader Sahani aspires to become as evident from the ”Son of Mallah” nickname he uses for himself.
BJP hopes to more than makeup whatever damage the antics of Sahani, a former Bollywood set designer, can cause, thanks to the solid support of Dalits it is looking forward.
The party has succeeded in getting the support of late Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan and brother Pashupati Kumar Paras though it remains to be seen how intact the now defunct LJP’s vote bank, bewildered over the squabbles of uncle and nephew, has remained.
A defeat will not result in a dip in the respective tallies of BJP and JD(U), though the party which wins will more than welcome the addition in its numbers.
Source: Press Trust of India