A day after the alliance of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) performed better than expected in by-elections to 18 assembly seats in Bihar, the leaders and workers are upbeat and see a new ray of hope ahead of state assembly polls next year.
The opposition alliance bagged nine seats, while the ruling coalition of Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won just five.
The vote was seen as a mini referendum for the Nitish Kumar government and termed as a semi-final. Its outcome in favour of RJD-LJP alliance has upset Nitish Kumar as he expected a clean sweep to prove his popularity.
Till a few days ago, the RJD-LJP alliance was described as a spent force and their leaders -- Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan -- had been written off. But the by-poll results have provided the much needed oxygen to them to take on the state's ruling Janata Dal(United) and its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"We have proved that the RJD-LJP is a big force in Bihar. The by-polls result is bound to give sleepless nights to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had declared that he would repeat the Lok Sabha performance," senior RJD leader Ram Kirpal Yadav told IANS here Friday.
"But he failed miserably as people defeated his alliance and voted against the so-called development on paper," Yadav added.
Another RJD leader Ghulam Gosh said it was the beginning of end of Nitish Kumar's "self propagated development and rule of law" in Bihar. "People across the state voted against his government and exposed him," he averred.
LJP leader Pasupati Kumar Paras said the RJD-LJP combine would take on the Nitish Kumar government in a big way. "The by-polls results will give a morale boost to the party workers, who were a little demoralised after the Lok Sabha polls," Paras admitted.
Hundreds of party workers from Patna to districts and block levels celebrated RJD-LJP's victory by distributing sweets, smearing gulal (colour) and lit candles to mark their happiness.
"Our mood is upbeat. We are sure the RJD-LJP is set to retrieve lost ground and would bounce back to power next year", Chandrasekhar Rai, a RJD worker from Danapur said.
Rai was supported by Hari Paswan, a LJP supporter. "The result has strengthened our hope that the RJD-LJP alliance may return to power," Paswan said.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan have hinted that they will tour Bihar in the coming months to stregthen party organisations on the ground and to raise issues close to people to woo them.
Interestingly, contesting independently of its former allies RJD and LJP, even the Congress managed victories from two seats -- in Chenari and Simribakhtiarpur. The party had turned down an alliance offer by the RJD.
The Bahujan Samaj Party emerged victorious on one seat.
Even an independent candidate Shanti Sharma won -- on the Ghosi seat -- defeating the JD-U nominee. She is the wife of JD-U MP from Jehanabad Jagdish Sharma, who backed her against the party candidate despite Nitish Kumar's request to support the official nominee.
RJD's Uday Manjhi surprised all by defeating JD-U's Shyam Rajak in Phulwarisharief in Patna. Rajak had deserted RJD for JD-U just two months ago. Similarly, former minister Ramai Ram was defeated in Bochaha seat. Ram had joined the JD-U after quitting the Congress.
Nitish Kumar had turned this seat into a prestige issue by campaigning here like never before.
The by-elections for 18 seats were held in two phases in the state. The votes were counted on Thursday.