Alarm bells in JD(U) after losing 3 out of 4 seats in Bihar assembly bypolls
The bypoll results in five assembly seats in Bihar have sent alarm bells ringing for the NDA alliance, and particularly for the JD (U).
The JD (U), which contested four seats, lost three. Its only victory came in the Nathnagar seat while the BJP’s experiment with minority voters of Kishanganj failed yet again.
The JD (U)’s poor performance has once again triggered fresh debates of big brother tag in the alliance. Things have not been good for the alliance of late as it that has been witnessing a war of words over the leadership issue till BJP president Amit Shah stepped last week to back chief minister Nitish Kumar as the face of Bihar NDA in the 2020 assembly polls.
The results are going to widen a divide between the two alliance partners with the JD (U) leaders now getting apprehensive that their BJP counterparts might once again become vocal on seat-sharing and the leadership issue.
Soon after the results were announced, a BJP MLC, Tunna Ji Pandey asked Nitish Kumar to step down taking moral responsibility for the poor performance.
“Nitish should take moral responsibility and step down. There was nothing at stakes for the BJP in the bypoll,” he said.
A JD (U) leader, wishing not to be named said, “The real pressure will now be on JD (U) and the BJP will demand a larger pie when the seat sharing comes up for discussion. “They may even claim Daraunda from where their rebel candidate won and I also see a possible threat to the alliance,” said the leader.
The loss has already caused some heartburn in the alliance with a section of JD (U) leaders alleging that the “BJP did not come out full throttle in favour of JD (U) in the bypolls.”
On their part, BJP leaders believe that the JD (U) will now not be ‘stubborn’ when seat-sharing comes up for discussion “and the party will definitely claim for a larger share, even 50-50 basis,” said a senior BJP state functionary. He, however, ruled out that there will be any demand on leadership especially after Amit Shah’s clarification on the issue.
But another BJP leader did not rule from the possibility of leadership issue being raked up at party’s forum.
Political analyst D M Diwakar of A N Sinha Institute for Social Studies, did not give much weightage to the bypoll results but he believes that it will give BJP an upper hand in the seat sharing talks given that the saffron party sacrificed five seats when the two parties decided to contest 17 seats each in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“During the Lok Sabha polls, the JD (U) got a better share and now the BJP will be in a position to bargain for bigger share of seats. The bypoll results will have implications on 2020 assembly election seat-sharing talks,” said Diwakar. “This is the reason why JD (U) has started to show its strength in Jharkhand, Delhi, etc.,” he added.
A shocked JD (U) vowed to analyse its performance. “The results were not to our expectations. We will analyse the result, find out the shortcomings, whether the party faltered in candidates’ selection and other issues,” JD (U) spokesperson, Rajiv Ranjan said.
However, he advised the opposition not to be happy “as in 2009 assembly bypolls the NDA fared badly to bounce back with thumping majority in 2010.”
For now, the BJP has backed the JD (U)’s view. “By-election results are no indication of voters’ mood. In 2009, NDA lost on 13 out of 18 seats in the bypolls. The political pundits had predicted doom for the NDA but the alliance came back strongly. We will analyse and take corrective measures,” said BJP state vice president Devesh Kumar.
A JD (U) source said that one primary reason for party’s poor performance could be the power given to local MPs to suggest the name of candidate. “In case of Daraunda, Kavita Singh, who became the MP, suggested the name of husband Ajay Singh. Similarly the names of other three candidates were proposed by the MPs of respective areas,” said a senior JD (U) leader.