Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal wins Bihar by-polls, divided opposition eats humble pie

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) heaved a big sigh of relief on Monday when it retained Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan assembly seats and maintained its tally in the 243-strong house.
Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar
Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar

Patna

By-polls had been necessitated by the deaths of sitting MLAs, both belonging to the JD(U). Loss of either seat would have been a setback to the party which saw its numbers plummet in the assembly elections last year and ceded the upper hand, in the ruling NDA, to the BJP.
Debutants Aman Bhushan Hazari and Rajiv Kumar Singh won Kusheshwar Asthan (SC) and Tarapur respectively for the party.
Hazari, who beat his nearest RJD rival by a comfortable margin of more than 12,000 votes, retained the seat which his late father Shashi Bhushan Hazari had won three times in a row.
However, Tarapur was witness to a cliffhanger of a contest as Singh trailed behind the RJD candidate, by slender margins, till 20 rounds of counting were over.
In the last nine rounds of counting, the JD(U) started catching up and after completion of all 29 rounds, beat the RJD by about 3800 votes.
The chief minister expressed delight over his party's performance, greeted the victorious candidates and remarked: The people are supreme in a democracy. They have given their verdict .
The results have come as a dampener for the RJD, which is in the opposition despite having the largest number of MLAs and was confident of clinching both seats.
Neither a seemingly ingenious play of the caste card nor a high octane campaign, septuagenarian RJD supremo Lalu Prasad addressing public meetings after about six years proved sufficient for Arun Kumar Sah and Ganesh Bharti, the RJD candidates from Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan respectively.
Prasad's disgruntled elder son Tej Pratap Yadav was quick to blame the defeat on state president Jagadanand Singh, besides MLC Sunil Singh and younger brother Tejashwi Yadav's key aide Sanjay Yadav with whom he keeps having run-ins and whose expulsion he demanded from the RJD.
Notably, the RJD's decision to contest Kusheshwar Asthan had also angered its junior ally Congress, which has been contesting the seat in the past, though with not much success.
The RJD had defended its move asserting that it could not leave the battle to a weak Congress and the latter hit back announcing that it will go it alone in the by-polls as well as the general elections in 2024.
However, the Congress, which was hopeful of getting some support from upper caste youths with the recent induction of former JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, failed to make an impact in both seats.
It polled just 2.12 per cent of the total votes in Tarapur and 4.28 per cent in Kusheshwar Asthan. The number of votes polled by the Congress in Kusheshwar Asthan (3590) fell sharply since the assembly polls (46,758) when its candidate Atirek Kumar's father Ashok Kumar had finished the runner-up.
Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) also failed to make a mark in Tarapur, which falls under his own Jamui Lok Sabha seat and in Kusheshwar Asthan which is a part of Samastipur represented by his rebellious cousin Prince Raj.
His party did slightly better than the Congress in Kusheshwar Asthan where it polled 4.29 per cent votes and in Tarapur where it got 3.16 per cent voters.
Nonetheless, the number of votes polled by his faction of the LJP in both seats was less than half of what the party, founded by his father, had got in the assembly polls after which it suffered a split led by Chirag's uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras.

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