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Bihar By-Polls become direct BJP-RJD fight as Nitish Kumar sits out

In 2014 general election, another BJP senior leader said, the 55% odd Hindu votes in Araria had got “divided” between the BJP and JD (U) while the Muslims votes, which stand at 45%, went to the RJD.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2018, 07.44 AM IST
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Nitish Kumar
The BJP may, however, request Kumar to campaign for its candidate.
The Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha seat of Araria will see a direct fight between the BJP and jailed opposition leader Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal in an upcoming bypoll, since Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is not contesting.

The BJP may, however, request Kumar to campaign for its candidate, a senior BJP leader said, underscoring the changed political equations in the state with the return of the JD (U) to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance last year after severing ties with the RJD and Congress.

In 2014 general election, another BJP senior leader said, the 55% odd Hindu votes in Araria had got “divided” between the BJP and JD (U) while the Muslims votes, which stand at 45%, went to the RJD.

The RJD’s Mohd Taslimuddin won this seat with a margin of 1.45 lakh votes in 2014 amid the Modi wave and his demise has necessitated this bypoll, which will be held on March 11.

“The BJP and JDU had then contested separately,” deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi told ET. “Together, we had polled 4.82 lakh votes – 75,000 more than the RJD. In 2009, in an alliance with the JD (U), we had won Araria,” he said, expressing confidence of a win.

The RJD is hobbled by the blow of its leader Lalu Prasad being jailed in the fodder scam, but it managed to bring Taslimuddin’s son, Sarfaraz Alam, into the party fold last week and is set to give him a ticket in an attempt to cash in on a sympathy wave. Alam had won the Jokihat assembly seat in Araria constituency on a JD (U) ticket in 2015 when the RJD and JD (U) were allies.

“I resigned as a JD (U) MLA last week as I cannot be with a party that has aligned now with the BJP. Muslims and Yadavs of Araria will give a befitting reply to the opportunistic alliance of JD (U) and BJP,” Alam said.

Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav has been camping in Araria for the past few days, holding a series of rallies along with Alam.

The two assembly seats where bypolls will be held along with Araria will similarly test the strength of the alliances on both sides. While the RJD, at a meeting held under Rabri Devi on Tuesday, declared that it would contest both Bhabua and Jehanabad assembly seats its remaining alliance partner of the erstwhile Mahagathbandhan, Congress, has threatened to float its own candidates for all three bypolls if it is not granted the Bhabua seat.

“The RJD has declared its candidate from Bhabua without even consulting us. We have won that seat eight times in the past. We will contest Bhabua at any cost,” Congress legislature party leader Sadanand Singh said, indicating the alliance is under further strain. This dispute suits the BJP, which holds Bhabua seat right now.

On the Jehanabad seat, though, the BJP is facing problems in its alliance as both the RLSP, led by Upendra Kushwaha, and HAM, led by Jitin Ram Manjhi, are insistent to contest this seat, which is held by the RJD. Manjhi has said he will take his case to BJP president Amit Shah if the state BJP unit does not relent.

The RJD is planning to give a ticket to the deceased MLA Mudrika Yadav’s son Suday Yadav to yet again cash in on sympathy. RLSP contested this seat in 2015 for the NDA alliance but Manjhi is insistent as Jehanabad is his stronghold area. The BJP, however, wishes to contest all three seats, including Jehanabad, against the RJD since the JD (U) has chosen to stay away from all these contests. “It will test the new political equations before 2019,” a BJP leader said.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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