Rashtriya Lok Samata Party’s (RLSP) Sudhanshu Shekhar on Tuesday won the Harlakhi bypoll handsomely by beating back the challenge of grand alliance candidate, Mohammad Shabbir of the Congress, by a margin of over 18,650 votes.
Shekhar polled 62,434 votes against his nearest rival, who received 47,784 votes.
The RLSP is a constituent of the NDA and led by Upendra Kumar Kushwaha, Union minister of state for human resource development.
The bypoll was necessitated because of the death of RLSP candidate Basant Kumar, who had won the assembly elections in 2015 by a margin of 4,000 votes against Shabbir. Kumar died a day before taking oath as a member of the house. The RLSP fielded his son for the bypolls.
The result has come as a blow to the Congress which had formed an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal(United) to notch up 27 seats after being in the dumps for over 25 years. The Congress had pitched all its might to win the seat this time and roped in RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, consciously steered clear of Harlakhi despite Congress’ request to campaign, was conscious of the fact that the Kushwahas, who have significant numbers, had supported him in the last elections and the RLSP candidate belonged to the same caste.
The Kushwahas and Nitish Kumar’s own Kurmi caste are known as mythological descendants of Lord Ramas sons Luv and Kush and hence said to brother castes.
While Ashok Choudhary, Congress state president and education minister in the Nitish cabinet, put down the loss to a sympathy wave, JD(U) insiders claimed that Kumar by not campaigning sent a message that the 2015 assembly election results could not have been possible without his participation and the entire credit must not be given to the Lalu Prasad-led RJD, which won the maximum of 80 seats.
Kumar has also reached out to the Kushwahas and regained a constituency, which he had apparently lost after Upendra Kushwaha split from the JD(U) to form his RLSP.
The NDA, however, reacted differently with BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi attributing the huge win to the loss of confidence of people in the administration led by Nitish Kumar.
The emerging crime scenario has also unnerved the people, which is why the NDA candidate got almost fives times the votes that the RLSP won the last time.