Bihar’s two stalwarts – Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, may well have taken a sigh of relief with Assembly bypoll results for 10 seats going in their favour, more so far pointers of their social combinations (read caste calculations) working. But it is too early to go ga-ga over it.
Just as BJP faces onerous task of maintaining momentum of Narendra Modi factor, Lalu and Nitish are now hard-pressed to find out common electoral agenda, rather than chhota bhai and bada bhai combine to club large part of OBC-dalit-EBC votes.. Even though it is 6:4 in grand alliance favour, good victory margins and narrow loss margins for the alliance may be heatening for Lalu-Nitish combination. Congress has also contributed to it by wresting Bhagalpur seat from BJP.
The most remarkable thing about the bypoll results is BJP winning only Mohania and Narkatiaganj seats by a fair margin and trouncing either JD (U) or Congress candidates. BJP has not been able to defeat its principal rivals for years, RJD, on just one seat, that too by margin of over 500 votes. On the contrary, RJD has trounced BJP with decisive margin at prestigious Chhapra and Mohiuddinagar seats, both won by BJP in last elections. BJP also faced major embarrassment as it lost its Bhagalpur seat to Congress by a good margin. BJP had been winning this seat for the last 15 years.
RJD and JD (U) camp is surely upbeat with giving each other good winning conversion with transfer of votes mutually. Chhapra, where BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy had got about 30,000 votes lead in the Assembly segment in last Lok Sabha elections, saw emergence of RJD because of MYR (Muslim-Yadav-Rajput) consolidation against BJP’s weak candidate Kanhaiya Singh, whose votes were poached on by party rebel and independent candidate CN Gupta.
BJP that banked too much on EBC factor and getting votes of 18-30 age group youths across castelines has task cut out now. It cannot be just “your caste groups versus our caste groups” in fight with Lalu and Nitish but with some out of box ideas on development and fulfilling some of “achche din” promises.
As for Nitish Kumar, the man who had taken on Narendra Modi, it is a sort of consolation win. The 2015 Assembly elections could be fought on altogether different agenda and amidst high pitched battles with top BJP leaders including PM Narendra Modi, who can dole out packages and promises to Bihar. For Nitish, the challenge is to come out of “bada bhai” shadow and keep telling people about his development model, rather than allowing Lalu to steal the show. The Assembly bypolls may well have won but the race has just begun for Nitish and Lalu, who will also have to tell people who will be the CM candidate of the grand alliance.