The BJP was in for a rude shock in Bhagalpur on Tuesday, where it suffered defeat by a slim margin owing to a third contender eating into its votes, much like the party’s fate in the constituency in the 2015 Assembly polls.
The Congress candidate Ajit Sharma defeated BJP’s Rohit Pandey by a margin of 1,113 votes, with the LJP nominee Rajesh Verma polling over 20,000 votes.
Bhagalpur is one of the five Assembly seats being contested by the BJP where the LJP — which contested the polls on its own— fielded candidates. While LJP chief Chirag Paswan was seen as propped up by the BJP to undermine Nitish Kumar, it backfired on the BJP in Bhagalpur.
A largely urban constituency, Bhagalpur is dominated by Banias, Brahmins, Marwaris and Muslims. Marwaris are considered to be traditional voters of the BJP here. The BJP candidate Pandey is a Brahmin, the Congress’s Ajit Sharma a Bhumihar, and the LJP’s Verma a Marwari.
A senior BJP leader said, “Chirag Paswan claimed he is the Hanuman of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Then why did he field a candidate against us? It is clear that had he not given ticket to Verma, BJP would have got a large share of the Marwari votes that he got.”
In 2015, Congress candidate Sharma had defeated BJP candidate and minister Ashwini Choubey’s son Arijit Shashwat by over 10,000 votes. A BJP rebel had then polled 15,212 votes.
The LJP’s Chirag Paswan had earlier said he is fielding candidates against the BJP in five seats as he had to give tickets to old party workers, and two of the seats were already held by the party.
In neighbouring Amarpur, the LJP spoiled the Congress’s chances, with JD(U)’s Jayant Raj defeating Congress’s Jitendra Singh by a margin of 3,114 votes. The LJP’s Mrinal Shekhar polled 40,071 votes. A senior BJP leader said both the Congress and the LJP candidates are from the Rajput community and ended up eating into each other’s vote share.