Just three months after winning 31 of Bihar’s 40 seats on the back of a wave created around Narendra Modi, the NDA suffered defeat at the hands of the newly forged partnership between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.
The RJD won three of the four seats it contested, while the JD(U) and the Congress won as many seats as they lost, scoring 2-2 and 1-1 respectively. Though the 6-4 result will have no bearing on the current assembly, it has meant that the combination, which includes the Congress, has passed its first test for whether it can work. The three parties claim to have found the right social combination, leaving on the BJP the onus of finding a formula other than caste versus caste.
The BJP said not much should be read into the results of bypolls. National spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the new alliance has no “real reason to go gaga over close results”. Legislature party leader Sushil Modi said bypolls are not often marked by the usual enthusiasm of voters, but added, “We had expected not less than six seats. We will sit together to review the result.”
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, admitted to a Mumbai hospital with a heart problem, tweeted his thanks to Bihar’s “maalik janata” for having “corrected the mistake made by voters nationwide in the Lok Sabha polls”. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said: “The results show the Modi magic has started to wane.”
Former chief minister Nitish Kumar said the grand alliance has “made just the right beginning” and the people of Bihar have “set a trend with the verdict, and started rising over the divisive politics” of the BJP. He acknowledged, however, that a bigger battle lies ahead. “It is true that we have to make a greater effort for the 2015 battle. But that such a result has come in our favour (after the Lok Sabha drubbing) is heartening,” Nitish said.
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JD(U) insiders indicated, however, that they are are not happy at what they call “only a 50 per cent win despite the partnership with Lalu and the Congress”. “It is a matter of concern why RJD and Congress base votes did not translate as much in our favour as ours did for the RJD,” a leader close to Nitish Kumar said. “Only Parbatta, which gave us a margin of 57,000, has been great news for us. The results may have a bearing on our relations with the RJD, and on which party gets the higher share of seats in the assembly elections.”
In the upbeat RJD camp, a senior leader said, “Only the leadership issue remains for the alliance. Now is not the time to think about that, but to keep the momentum going until next year.”
The bypolls have also returned the Congress to Bhagalpur, where it had been losing ground since the 1989 riots. Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Choudhary said: “It is the beginning of secular forces jointly making a statement. The Bhagalpur win gives the Congress a lot to take heart from.”