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Tough Times Ahead for Nitish Kumar as Opposition Unity Ensures Jokihat Defeat

Bypoll debacle will force the BJP to rethink its strategy and listen to smaller allies as LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan and JD(U) have off late openly said that Nitish model will work in Bihar and not Modi model.

Alok Kumar | News18dmalok

Updated:May 31, 2018, 3:58 PM IST
Tough Times Ahead for Nitish Kumar as Opposition Unity Ensures Jokihat Defeat
File photo of JD(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (PTI)

Patna: Just a few days before Jokihat Assembly seat went to polls, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar appealed with folded hands to forgive his candidate Mursheed Alam and promised to visit the area if Alam is elected.

His desperation summed up how important this bye-election was for him.

Now that his candidate has lost the prestige battle, which was considered an acid test for the chief minister himself, Nitish has an uphill task to energise and motivate the rank and file of his party.

Nitish is already being targeted by the opposition, who accuse him of running the government on the instructions coming from Nagpur, though he has been trying to fight this perception by indirectly projecting to alliance partner BJP that he won't compromise with the interest of the state.

This is the third bypoll defeat for the NDA after Nitish returned to the NDA fold last year in July.

The BJP lost Araria Lok Sabha by-election in March to RJD's Sarfaraz Alam, who was sitting JD(U) MLA from Jokihat but defected to RJD.

Historically, RJD has been strong in Seemanchal because of predominance of minority votes.

Interestingly, despite Nitish's indifference to contest bypolls, the BJP persuaded him to fight from Jehanabad Assembly seat which the JD(U) lost miserably, much to the embarrassment of the chief minister.

In Araria by-election the RJD candidate managed to get decisive lead of 80,000 votes from Jokihat Assembly segment, and indication how difficult it would be for the NDA to win from this seat.

Despite that Nitish Kumar chose to test waters as this seat belonged to his party. He fielded Mursheed Alam, who many JD(U) insiders admit was a wrong choice as he had many cases against him, including rape, robbery and stealing idols from a temple.

This is why Nitish with folded hands, a rare sight, as he always boasts his development works, signalled mistake in selection of candidate indirectly and appealed to forgive him in a public rally.

However, many senior leaders accompanying Nitish admitted that Mursheed’s prospects were bleak.

Now that he lost by 37000 votes, the CM's close aide and JD(U) general secretary Sanjay Jha indicated how the party was able to narrow the margin from this Assembly segment vis a vis recently held Lok Sabha bypolls. But he admits variation in public perception from such results in the state and on national level.

On the other hand, an upbeat opposition led by firebrand youth leader Tejashwi Yadav has been successful to reach out to masses by impressing upon them that Nitish betrayed 2015 mandate by siding with BJP.

Tejashwi has also accused Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar of harassing his father Lalu Yadav by lodging 'false' cases against him. He also alleged that law and order situation has deteriorated and that Nitish failed to check BJP's game plan of polarisation in Bihar.

The way Nitish stumped RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan and political scenario thereafter ensured consolidation of Muslim-Yadav (MY) votes in favour of RJD.

Recent developments suggest Nitish Kumar does not want to be projected as the B team of the BJP, as Tejashwi led opposition has been repeatedly accusing him.

Nitish did not like when Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi ignored his public plea to accord central university status to Patna University. He is also miffed at slow pace of central assistance for development projects forcing him recently to raise demand of special status category status for the state.

Bypoll debacle will force the BJP to rethink its strategy and listen to smaller allies as LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan and JD(U) have off late openly said that Nitish model will work in Bihar and not Modi model.

The JD(U) has a plan in place. It wants BJP to remember 2005 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee publicly said that BJP would fight elections under the leadership of Nitish Kumar and the NDA came to power overthrowing 15 years of 'Lalu Raj'.

So clearly in comparison to RJD led Mahagathbandhan, the NDA is not clear in its strategy and Jokihat results have bearing on how the coalition moves forward

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