Jokihat By-Election a Referendum for Nitish: Teacher and Student Pitted Against Each Other

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The by-election has acquired importance for Nitish, not only from the point of retaining the seat but as a popularity test. Both have campaigned vigorously to win the seat, which the JD(U) has won consecutively for the last four times since 2005. A defeat for Nitish would prove disastrous for him as it would send adverse signals in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Here’s a report, for Different Truths.

Nothing could be more humiliating for Nitish Kumar than to be compared with the amateur young Tejashvi, the emerging RJD leader on the political horizon of Bihar. Till two-year ago, he was taking the first lessons in politics from his “uncle” Nitish, but now he is the biggest potential threat to the uncle’s political standing.

Though people have seen them as adversaries during the Araria Lok Sabha by-election three months ago, the Jokihat assembly by election held on May 28 acceptability as the leader of the poor and backward classes. Even the leaders of BJP, an ally of Nitish, concede that this is going to be battle between the two.

The by-election has acquired importance for Nitish, not only from the point of retaining the seat but as a popularity test. Both have campaigned vigorously to win the seat, which the JD(U) has won consecutively for the last four times since 2005. A defeat for Nitish would prove disastrous for him as it would send adverse signals in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Jokihat assembly seat was represented either by Taslimuddin or by one of his family members. The by-election was caused due to the resignation of Sarfaraz Alam, who later switched to RJD and got elected to Lok Sabha from Araria. Winning this seat has become imperative for the JD(U) as it would define its future. A loss will give the BJP more assertive power and grip on the state administration. That would be the first major step pushing Nitish to oblivion.

Nitish, in fact, is trying to assess the Muslim mood towards him. Though it is believed that Muslims have shifted away from him, the by-election will confirm whether it is true or not. After Nitish left the Mahagathbandhan, the Muslims are not happy with him and there is over 70 percent Muslim population. Muslims are quite displeased with Nitish Kumar as he cheated Lalu Prasad who made him the CM in 2015.

While RJD has fielded Taslimuddin’s younger son Shahnawaz Alam, Nitish has nominated Murshid Alam, a candidate with a criminal background. He is allegedly involved in a number of murder cases. People are citing his nomination to tease the chief minister. Nitish has been using this election as a referendum on his performance. He is asking for votes on the basis of the good work he has done and pointing out that he has worked for the welfare of all sections of society.

RJD’s portrayal of Nitish as a patron of the criminals and a betrayer has caught the imagination of the local people. He is trying hard to explain the reason for his joining hand with BJP and forming the NDA government.

Taslimuddin, the father of RJD leader Shahnawaz Alam has been a veteran leader of Seemanchal region (border area of Bihar and Bengal) and had first won the seat in 1969 and thereafter in 1972, 1977,1985, and 1995. Nitish has another problem at hand as he has failed to build a cadre of committed supporters over the years and has been using others to come to power. But RJD has a strong booth-level support base, which makes it more difficult for Nitish.

In the changed political situation while RJD can think of getting the support of Congress, Left, and other political parties, Nitish stands completely isolated. Even his alliance partner is maintaining some distance.

Arun Srivastava

©IPA Service 

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