PATNA:, The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad on Thursday won the by-election to Jokihat assembly seat in Bihar by an impressive margin of votes in what observers say as a major setback to chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The victory of the RJD candidate becomes significant given the fact that the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by Kumar had launched intensive polls campaigns, engaged all top leaders in the campaign and invested all energy to retain the seat held by the ruling Janata Dal United (JD-U).
RJD candidate Shahnawaz Alam defeated JD-U candidate Murshid Alam by over 41 thousand votes which, interestingly, are more than the total votes polled by the ruling party nominee. Shanawaz polled a total of 81,240 votes whereas Murshid could poll only 40,015 votes.
Jokihat, a Muslim-dominated constituency located in eastern Bihar’s Araria district had become a matter of prestige both for the ruling JD-U and the RJD.
While the JD-U wanted to retain its traditional seat at all cost, the RJD faced the pressures to score over its rival Kumar who crossed over the opposition NDA after winning the last 2015 state polls in its company.
This is the second time in quick succession that the RJD has dealt a severe blow to the personal charisma of the chief minister who claimed his “development” plank would defeat his rival’s caste politics.
Earlier in March this year, the RJD had proved its might in by-polls to three seats in Bihar.
The RJD had bagged two of the three seats in what was widely projected as a “seminal final” to the next Lok Sabha polls due in 2019.
“This is the victory of Laluism over rank opportunism. The masses have taught a lesson to the man (Nitish Kumar) who insulted the people’s mandate. This is only a trailer, the real picture will come out in 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” RJD leader and Leader of Opposition in Bihar assembly Tejashwi Yadav told a Press conference in Patna on Thursday. He also asked the chief minister to tender resignation owing moral responsibility.
“The victory has also proved the masses are with Lalu Prasad who never changed his stand despite high degree of tortures by the NDA government,” Tejashwi said.
The defeat also brought to fore the prevailing tension in the ruling NDA as the key coalition partner JD-U blamed BJP for the defeat.
“There is outrage across the country due to increase in price of petrol and diesel. Constant rise in the price of fuel is also a reason for such poll results. Therefore, hike should be immediately rolled back,” JD-U spokesperson KC Tyagi told the media today.
Describing the by-poll results as a “matter of serious concern”, Tyagi further alleged the NDA allies were feeling isolated within the NDA.
“There in an urgent need to pump energy in to NDA ahead of 2019 LS polls. Shiv Sena is angry with the BJP, Teluhgu Desham Party has quit the NDA while Akali Dal and Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party too are not said to be happy. The problem needs to be sorted out very soon,” Tyagi added.