Jostling match begins | patna | Hindustan Times
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Jostling match begins

The three faces identified most with political emotions in India are lit up now — in a triumphant mirth. The results of the by-elections in Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal have drawn out the "I-told-you-so" smiles with the routine "It's the people's wish" statements.

patna Updated: Jun 06, 2013 02:26 IST
HT Correspondents

The three faces identified most with political emotions in India are lit up now — in a triumphant mirth. The results of the by-elections in Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal have drawn out the "I-told-you-so" smiles with the routine "It's the people's wish" statements.

The BJP's Narendra Modi, especially, takes the cake by wrenching away the two Lok Sabha and four assembly seats — all from the Congress – in Gujarat, again proving his near-absolute grip over the state.

It will further enhance his larger-than-life image of the Gujarati pride and silence his own party colleagues opposing his prime ministerial ambition.

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Mamata Banerjee's TMC couldn't be ousted from the Howrah constituency, although it's one of the districts hit hardest by the Saradha Ponzi scandal.

The biggest upset, however, happened in Bihar. While the bypoll results more or less confirmed the ruling parties' acceptability — with seats in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra also going to the SP and the Congress, respectively — it's the old warhorse, Lalu Prasad, who staged the biggest coup.

With RJD retaining the Lok Sabha seat in Maharajganj in Bihar despite chief minister Nitish Kumar's good governance plank, it seems one can't write the 2014 poll script just yet.

Reading the moves of the canny Yadav chief has always been a tall order. What Prasad did to retain Maharajganj was to rope in Rajput muscleman Prabhunath Singh — who had got a JD(U) ticket earlier in spite of his violent history and later fell out with Kumar — to fight Bihar education minister PK Shahi.

It also comes at a crucial time when Kumar is being seen as the JD(U)'s answer to Modi, the BJP's possible prime ministerial candidate. The rivalry has reached such a level that the two CMs of the NDA stable didn't even recognise each other at the chief ministers' meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The NDA in Bihar has virtually been divided into the Kumar and Modi camps. So much so that Maharajganj witnessed a poor turnout by upper caste voters, mostly BJP supporters. And Prasad struck gold, as the Yadavs and Rajputs closed ranks.

Another reason for the JD(U) defeat is the absence of a heavy turnout by women and Dalits — Kumar's well nurtured "special constituency" across castes.

Shahi, a lawyer-turned-politician and a confidant of Kumar, proved to be too inexperienced. Although he said, "It (his defeat) does not take away the credibility of our leader Nitish Kumar", Kumar himself told the voters during the campaign that his honour was in their hands.

Prasad was quick to react: "This is the beginning of the end of the Kumar-led regime." What he meant is that the Congress may now be more interested in tying up with him rather than with Kumar.

In West Bengal, TMC was not initially perceived as a sure winner. Now, with the victory, Banerjee has proved a crucial point. She managed to fend off the Saradha hit — she got only about 10,000 votes less than her last score and, that too, without a tie-up with the Congress.

Also, in a not-so-subtle overture to the TMC before the 2014 polls, the BJP withdrew its candidate and gifted the 50,000 votes it got in the 2011 assembly polls.

There's more to the TMC victory: Public memory is short, but not as short as it looks. The CPI(M) will have to wait for some more time before the effects of its high-handedness in Singur and killings in Nandigram and Netai wear off.