The 2019 Lok Sabha elections have turned out to be a waterloo for the three regional parties and their leaders aspiring to play a crucial role in Bihar politics.
The three regional parties — the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) — have failed to open their account and their leaders have lost the polls with huge margins.
The landslide victory of NDA in Bihar has exposed the tall claims of these leaders and proved beyond doubt that they were not a factor in the polls in Bihar. They together contested 11 Lok Sabha seats as part of the grand alliance (mahagathbandhan).
The worst victim of the so-called ‘Modi tsunami’ is the RLSP president and former union minister Upendra Kushwaha, who lost from the two constituencies — Karakat, from where he is the sitting MP, and Ujiyarpur, which is his home constituency — he contested this time. Kushwaha had managed to get altogether five Lok Sabha seats in the grand alliance including Karakar, Ujiyarpur, East Champaran, West Champaran and Jamui (SC).
Kushwaha had maintained that he was not contesting from more than one seat out of fear of defeat but to teach a lesson to both BJP and Janata Dal (U) and the BJP because both the parties wanted to finish him off politically. The RLSP led by Kushwaha had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as an NDA ally and won three seats – Karakat, Sitamarhi and Jehanabad.
However, two of its MPs — Arun Kumar of Jehanabad and Ram Kumar Sharma of Sitamarhi — rebelled against Kushwaha accusing him of running the party arbitrarily. Party’s two MLAs also floated a separate outfit and supported the NDA.
With his crushing defeat, Kushwaha’s ambition to become the sole leader of the Koeri (Kushwaha) community has been shattered. He will have to start afresh and mull over the reasons of his defeat before embarking for the 2020 Bihar assembly elections.
Soon after the exit poll results were declared, Kushwaha had threatened his political opponents of bloodshed if there was any attempt to tamper with the Lok Sabha results.
HAM leader and former Bihar chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi lost from Gaya, his home constituency, against JD (U)’s Vijay Kumar Manjhi. HAM had contested three seats as part of the mahagathbandhan from Gaya (SC), Aurangabad and Nalanda.
Manjhi seems to have lost his credibility as leader of Dalits, especially the Musahar community, which has sizeable population in Gaya and central parts of Bihar. But the most worrying factor for him is that his party may lose the status of regional party, if it does not win even one seat.
A six-time MLA, Manjhi has jumped from Congress to RJD and then to JD(U) before floating his own party HAM after he was unceremoniously removed from the post of Chief Minister. His image has sunk because of his frequent shifts from one party to other for individual benefit.
The VIP chief Mukesh Sahani, also called as ‘Son of Mallah’, stands completely vanquished as he lost from Khagaria by a substantial vote against LJP nominee and sitting MP Mehboob Ali Kaiser. His party’s two other candidates from Madhubani and Muzaffarpur also lost to the BJP nominees.
“The boat of Son of Mallah has sunk in the riverine belt of Khagaria, which has sizable population of Mallahs and other members of the fishing community,” said Rakesh Nishad, a member of the Bihar Nishad Sangh.
Mukesh was projected as the sole leader of the Mallah or Nishad community and it was expected that the grand alliance might take away the chunk votes of his community. But his charisma seems to have waned and now he will have to rework his strategy to command the leadership of the Nishad community, which is numerically preponderant and matters in electoral equations in north Bihar.
Almost every political party tries to seek support of the Nishad community, which is the largest community among the 120-odd castes listed in the category of Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) in Bihar.
“These three leaders have been behaving like great gamblers of Bihar politics and taken undue advantage in the past. But now they stand exposed. They need to rework their strategy if they want to survive in politics in future,” said BJP leader Binod Sharma, who recently joined the party from Congress.
(The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal.)