Assembly bypolls: Campaign ends in Mokama, Gopalganj; over to voters on Nov 3

Published on Nov 01, 2022 10:38 PM IST

In Mokama, there is a straight contest between GA-backed RJD candidate Neelam Devi, wife of former MLA and strongman Anant Singh, and Sonam Devi, wife of Nalin Ranjan Sharma alias Lallan Singh, a local leader with clout.

Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav with JD(U) national president Lallan Singh in Mokama on Tuesday. (Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav with JD(U) national president Lallan Singh in Mokama on Tuesday. (Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
By, Patna

The November 3 bypolls for Mokama and Gopalganj assembly seats, campaigning for which ended Tuesday evening, will be the first electoral face-off between the ruling Grand Alliance (GA) and the Opposition BJP in Bihar after the change of government in August this year, when chief minister Nitish Kumar’s party JD-U snapped ties with the saffron party and aligned with Lalu Prasad’s RJD-led alliance, comprising Congress and other parties, to form a new government.

In Mokama, there is a straight contest between GA-backed RJD candidate Neelam Devi, wife of former MLA and strongman Anant Singh, and Sonam Devi, wife of Nalin Ranjan Sharma alias Lallan Singh, a local leader with clout.

The seat fell vacant earlier this year after Anant Singh was disqualified as a member of legislative assembly (MLA) following his conviction in a case of arms recovery. He is currently in jail.

Lallan Singh, a muscleman, had unsuccessfully contested against Anant Singh in 2005 assembly polls while his wife Sonam Devi had contested unsuccessfully against Anant Singh in 2010 assembly polls.

Both the candidates here belong to the Bhumihar community and political observers foresee a split in votes, which could make Yadavs, extremely backward classes and Muslims a key deciding factor.

The BJP, which is contesting the seats almost after two decades, launched a campaign blitzkrieg by Suraj Bhan Singh, a former MP and former local MLA, who is now with the Lok Janshakti Party’s splinter group headed by Pashupati Paras.

Suraj Bhan Singh, with a long history sheet in crime, had made his electoral debut in 2000 assembly elections when he wrested Mokama seat by an astounding margin, contesting as an Independent and defeating Anant Singh’s elder brother Dilip Singh, a minister in the then RJD government.

In Gopalganj, BJP has fielded Kusum Devi, whose husband Subhash Singh’s death necessitated the bypoll. Subhash Singh, a former minister, had represented the seat four times.

Kusum Devi is locked in a triangular contest between RJD’s Mohan Prasad Gupta and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Indira Yadav, wife of former Gopalganj MP Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav, who is the son-in-law of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

Here, stakes are high for BJP, which held the seat.

K K Singh, a school teacher in Gopalganj, says the contest could be a close finish as RJD-JD(U) realignment had altered the caste equations in the constituency where Rajputs, Muslims and Yadavs and OBCs as well Bhumihars have sizable vote base.

He said RJD, having fielded a Vaishya candidate, has made the contest more challenging as chances of a split among Vaishya voters is possible in the community which has traditionally been aligned with BJP.

Similarly, BSP candidate Indira Yadav could split Yadav votes, which could damage RJD.

In 2020 assembly polls, Sadhu Yadav himself had polled around 38,000 votes, finishing second to winner Subash Singh of BJP.

“The result of the bypolls would have more of a psychological impact on both BJP and the ruling GA. It would boost the morale of workers on both sides ahead of the 2024 parliamentary polls. For BJP , the contest is important as it wants to sends across a message that it can take on the ruling GA on its own. For the GA, a win would be an endorsement of CM Nitish Kumar’s stand to unite all anti-BJP forces,” said political analyst Nawal Kishore Choudhary.

The counting of votes would be held on November 6.

The campaign

On Tuesday, deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh held joint rallies in both Mokama and Gopalganj.

For BJP, singer and MP Manoj Tiwary campaigned in both the seats. LJP( Ram Vilas) faction chief and Jamui MP, Chiraj Paswan, too campaigned for BJP candidates.

“We are winning both the seats comfortably. BJP will lose and that is why they are bringing leaders from outside,” said Tejashwi Yadav.

BJP leader Sushil Modi said, “People in both Gopalganj and Mokama have decided to reject candidates from the RJD as the party supports people with tainted record. RJD is putting all its resources to win the polls, but it would ultimately lose the polls.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    A journalist for 21 years, Anirban covers RJD, legislature and government beats. Has extensive experience in covering elections and writes regularly on finance, land reforms, registration, excise and socio-economic issues.

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