Winning the Gopalganj seat in the latest assembly by poll in Bihar is purely a consolation gift for the BJP. In Gopalganj, BJP’s candidate Kusum Devi won by a slender margin of 1794 votes, defeating RJD’s Mohan Prasad Gupta. Kusum Devi received 70,053 votes and Mohan Prasad Gupta received 68,259 votes.
An attempt is being made by the media to set the narrative that the first electoral test for the Nitish Kumar’s ‘Mahagathbandhan’ government, formed barely three months ago after Nitish parted ways with the BJP does not enjoy the trust of the people. Gopalganj has been BJP’s pocket borough since 2005. The BJP had won the seat in 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020 with comfortable margins. The margin had been over 36,000 in 2020. Subhas Singh had won the seat. He had got around 78000 votes.
The votes polled by the BJP candidate who incidentally is the wife of deceased Subhas Singh even could not get the 8000 thousand votes margin which were bagged by her husband in 2020 assembly polls. This fall in the BJP vote is also significant for the reason that in 2020 election the then Mahagathbandhan candidate, a nominee of the Congress, had polled 36460 votes. In that election too Sadhu Yadav’s candidate seeking election as BSP nominee had got 41500.
Obviously the performance of the BJP in this election indicates that the party actually has lost ground to the rejuvenated Grand Alliance under the leadership of Nitish. Kumar While Mahagathbandhan candidate secured 68259 votes, Sadhu’s wife got 12000 votes,
The RJD fielded Mohan Gupta, while Indira Yadav, wife of Lalu Yadav’s brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav, contested as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate. The decline in margin of victory has been quite distressing for the BJP. Though the state president of the BJP hailed the victory as significant, it cannot be denied that BJP candidate scraped through with a margin of 1,794 votes.
BJP could retain Gopalganj only because the AIMIM put up Abdul Salam, who bagged over 12,000 votes. Another factor was that Lalu’s estranged brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav fielded his wife Indira Yadav as a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate. She polled around 9,000 votes. These votes were precisely anti BJP in nature. While the AIMIM managed to cut into the RJD’s Muslim support base, Sadhu’s wife lured a section of the Yadavs and a section of Dalits. A significant chunk of these 21,000 votes were supposed to go to RJD. The AIMIM and BSP candidates cut the Muslim and Yadav votes that traditionally go to the RJD in Bihar.
The most distressing development that has surfaced in the wake of this by election is shifting away of a section of the Muslim votes, from RJD to AIMIM. It is certain that the shift would not have major impact on the Muslim-Yadav axis evolved by Lalu Yadav, but the schism would undoubtedly shake the confidence of the Muslims. The prime reason for the split in the Muslims owes to the fact that Tejashvi Yadav did not take wife of gangster Shahabuddin into confidence before fielding Gupta as the RJD candidate. Gopalganj has substantial Muslim population and close aides of Shahabuddin claim that they are devoted to him. After his death, the Muslims treat his wife as their leader. Obviously Tejashvi not consulting her and outing Gupta as the RJD candidate has hurt them.
The supporters of Shahabuddin had strongly lobbied for Muslim face as the RJD candidate. But past experiences had made Tejashvi tread cautiously. With a RJD Muslim candidate in the fray, the Hindu voters used to polarise in favour of BJP. The area having strong network of RSS has always been prone to communal clashes. Often the goons of Shahabuddin would have bloody clashes with the Hindu gangsters. Though Shahabuddin operated from Siwan his home town, Gopalganj is in the close vicinity virtually the next door neighbour. Tejashvi had put a number of prominent Muslim faces in the war, but they could not counter the influence of Shahabuddin and his wife.
The fact is lotus did not bloom in Bihar. The Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal claimed: “Our seat remained with us while the RJD retained its seat. Politics in Bihar is now polarised between the BJP and the RJD.” He is not correct in his valuation. The BJP would now focus on the Kudhani Assembly bypoll in December. The seat was held by the RJD.
If Gopalganj witnessed an orthodox political action, Mokameh by election saw the fight between muscle power. Both the BJP and the RJD had fielded the wives of local musclemen in the bypolls. BJP nominee Sonam Devi was up against RJD’s Neelam Devi, whose husband Anant Singh’s disqualification has necessitated the by-election. Anant Singh won the seat twice on JD(U) tickets and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has appealed to voters to support him . Singh’s wife Neelam Devi, defeated her BJP rival by a margin of more than 16,000 votes. She polled 79,744 votes, while BJP’s Sonam Devi got 63,003.
Interestingly Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Paras, a union minister and his party’s acting president Surajbhan Singh, a former Mokama MLA had campaigned for BJP candidate. Even Ram Vilas’s son who is not on talking terms with his uncle Paras also campaigned intensively for the saffron party. (IPA Service)