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Bihar bypolls: With Nitish in shadows, real fight is between BJP and RJD

IANS  |  Patna 

Much is at stake at Sunday's by-elections to three seats -- one and two assembly seats -- for both ruling BJP-led NDA and opposition comprising RJD, and HAM-S, barely a year ahead of the 2019 polls.

Both and are using the bypolls as an opportunity to prove their superiority over the other in terms of popularity among the masses.

While the NDA leaders are confident that they will win all the three seats, the leaders have repeatedly claimed to pull out victory even in the absence of their star and Rashtriya (RJD) chief -- behind bars in connection with two fodder scam cases.

The by-elections are set to see direct contests between the NDA led by (BJP) and the Grand Alliance, which got its third constituent in the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) of Jitan Ram Manjhi, who quit the NDA to switch sides.

The bypolls to Jehanabad and assembly seats are being held following the death of sitting legislators from the and the BJP, respectively. The seat became vacant after the death last year of Mohammad Taslimuddin, the sitting MP.

No matter which way the results go, this by-election provide both and an opportunity to take on each other directly in Bihar, as a precursor to parliamentary polls next year when they will also, most likely, be the main opponents. Ever since the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United (JD-U) joined the NDA back, the has virtually replaced the former as the main rival to Lalu Prasad's RJD.

This has triggered a debate in the political circles whether has accepted the role of a junior partner in state By accepting the offer to contest from Jehannabad, after announcing publicly not to fight the by-elections, the JD-U has given an opportunity to the BJP to prove that it is number one in NDA.

The BJP also ignored the demand of its other smaller ally in the state, (RLSP) of who was also keen to field his candidate from Jehanabad.

A senior BJP leader said that party has decided in favour of the JD-U to contest from Jehanabad to send a political message that the NDA can accommodate its allies to keep the alliance stable.

"BJP has decided to strengthen NDA to defeat RJD and we will win all three seats," said state BJP

In a similar fashion, the RJD offered seat to the at the last moment "to strengthen the Grand Alliance" as the leaders made public their keenness to contest against the BJP from there.

In Lok Sabha seat, the RJD has fielded -- son of -- who was a sitting of the ruling JD-U. Last month, he left the party, and the assembly, to join the RJD. He is also a former from Jokihat in district.

RJD is hopeful of its traditional support base among Muslim-Yadav (MY) combine along with Dalits, which forms a major chunk of the electorate in Araria. The party is also hoping that Alam would get a chunk of sympathy votes for his father.

On the other hand, BJP nominee Pradeep Kumar Singh is hopeful of support among the upper castes and the extremely backward castes, as he had secured 2.61 lakh votes in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, losing to Taslimuddin who had got 4 lakh votes.

"RJD won last time despite the Narendra Modi wave. But this time, there is no such wave. So, we are sure to post a still bigger voctory this time," RJD said.

The current bypoll equations are also likely to reflect in the seat-sharing between the BJP and the JD-U for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, said a who did not want to be named.

"is no more what he used to be, as he has lost his bargaining power after returning to the NDA last year," the said.

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 10 2018. 19:56 IST