PATNA: By-elections for one parliament and two assembly seats in Bihar are being pegged as a Chief Minister Nitish Kumar vs RJD’s Tejasvi Yadav contest, the first big political battle since Mr Kumar dissolved his “grand alliance” and partnered with the BJP last year.
Campaigning for the by-elections to the Araria Lok Sabha seat and the Bhabhua and Jahanabad assembly seats ends today and voting will take place on Sunday. Results will be announced on Wednesday, March 14.
28-year-old Tejaswi has led the RJD or Rashtriya Janata Dal’s campaign in the absence of his father and party chief Lalu Yadav, who is in jail in a corruption case.
The by-elections are seen as a test of Nitish Kumar’s decision to dump the RJD and Congress and ally with the BJP. His former allies accuse the Chief Minister of betraying the mandate of Bihar’s voters, who, they say, voted for their grand alliance in assembly elections in 2015.
In his campaign, Nitish Kumar has asserted that his exit from the grand alliance and his rejoining the BJP-led national alliance NDA was in the best interest of Bihar.
“I did whatever I thought to be in the best interests of Bihar. The state will now scale new heights with ample cooperation from the Centre,” Nitish Kumar said in Araria, also taking a pot shot at ex-partner Lalu Yadav over a recent conviction when he said, “some people have an immense hunger for wealth. The one who commits a sin must reap the fruits of what he has sown.”
Campaigning for a BJP candidate in Araria, Nitish Kumar said he is seeking votes “on the basis of the performance of my government.”
Tejaswi Yadav has in his campaign accused Nitish Kumar and the BJP of “political vendetta” alleging that his father was been convicted in a “deep-rooted conspiracy.”
The Araria seat was won in the 2014 national election by the RJD’s Mohd Taslimuddin, who died last year. BJP candidate Pradip Singh, who had won the seat in 2009 and came second last time, takes on Mohd Taslimuddin’s son Sarafaraz Alam, the RJD’s candidate.
The Bhabua assembly seat was vacated by the death of the BJP’s Anand Bhushan Pandey and the ruling alliance has fielded his wife Rinki Rani Pandey and hopes to win the seat back.
Here the opposition alliance has fielded a Congress candidate in Shambhu Patel, and are banking on the popularity of former Lok Sabha speaker and Dalit leader Meira Kumar, who has earlier been the MP from Sasaram, the parliamentary constituency of which Bhabhua is an assembly segment. Dalits are a major chunk of the voters in Bhabhua.
The Jehanabad assembly seat was held by the RJD’s Mundrika Prasad Yadav, but the JD(U)-BJP had won it when they were partners earlier and hope that their coming together again will help them get back the seat.