Bihar: Lalu to Undergo Surgery in Singapore; Yet Factor in Campaigning Ahead of Kurhani Bypoll
RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Image Courtesy: NDTV
Patna: Ailing RJD chief Lalu Prasad may be hundreds of kilometres away from Bihar, as he is in Singapore for kidney transplantation, but his name is a big factor in the ongoing campaign ahead of the bypoll for the Kurhani Assembly seat in Muzaffarpur district.
The bypoll will be held on December 5. The ruling Mahagathbandhan in the state is relying on Lalu’s name to wrest the seat in the bypoll and to defeat its main political rival, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
It became evident during the last two days when Mahagathbandhan leaders including RJD leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav repeatedly urged people during the campaign to vote for Mahagathbandhan candidate Manoj Kushwaha and ensure victory for the sake of the good health of Lalu ji. He further said that Lalu has the blessings of millions of people—mostly the poor—as he undergoes the surgery.
“Tejashwi has deliberately used the Lalu factor to woo voters. He made it clear that Lalu is set for kidney transplantation on December 5 in Singapore; that very day voting for the Kurhani bypoll will be held. Tejashwi is sure to gain the support of people in the name of Lalu,” said Ratnesh Kumar, a political activist from Muzaffarpur, while speaking to NewsClick.
Though Mahagathbandhan has named Kushwaha as its joint candidate in Kurhani, officially, he is affiliated with the Janata Dal (United). But factoring in the sentiments for Lalu, several senior JD-U leaders have been publicly seeking votes in his name there.
As expected, CM Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav campaigned together on Friday. This was the first time when chacha (Nitish Kumar) and bhatija (Tejashwi Yadav) campaigned jointly for a by-election after Nitish Kumar dumped the BJP, joined hands with the RJD and formed the Mahagathbandhan government in the state in August this year. Nitish Kumar did not campaign for the by-elections in Mokama and Gopalganj seats held on November 3, citing his injuries. However, it was reported that Kumar had strong reservations over candidates of his ally RJD. It forced Tejashwi Yadav, who campaigned along with JD-U national president Lallan Singh, to publicly reveal that Nitish Kumar had sent his message to the people of Gopalganj and Mokama.
Both Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi also assured people to fulfill the promises of development, employment,health and education during the campaign.Tejashwi at the election meeting repeated his commitment to provide 10 lakh jobs to youths."We will fulfill it as process are under way to provide jobs as promised in August 2022".
According to political watchers here, Lalu is still popular among Dalits and people belonging to OBCs and EBCs. Their support will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the Kurhani bypoll. Sensing a challenge, unlike the last month’s by-elections for two seats in Bihar, Mahagathbandhan has not missed any chance to take on BJP.
JD-U state president Umesh Kushwaha told NewsClick that a joint team of Mahagathbandhan leaders and workers has been working in the rural constituency to reach out to voters as much as possible till December 3 – the last day of the campaigning. Similarly, BJP has instructed dozens of senior leaders, including former ministers, MPs, and MLAs, to camp in Kurhani for the campaign.
Other than Mahagathbandhan and BJP, the presence of a candidate from Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and a candidate from Asaduddin Owaisi's All-India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is set to add colour to electioneering. Though the main contest will be between Mahagathbandhan and BJP, the VIP has fielded its candidate belonging to the powerful landed upper caste Bhumihar, and AIMIM candidate Gulam Murtaza is a Muslim. They are likely to make some dent with the help of their traditional support base. Bhumihars are widely seen as loyal to BJP's Hindutva politics, and Muslims are considered die-hard supporters of RJD chief Lalu and JD-U’s Kumar.
By-elections for the Kurhani seat were necessitated after its sitting RJD MLA Anil Kumar Sahni was convicted in a case of forging leave travel allowance by a Delhi court in August this year.
Going by the social equation in Kurhani, it has a substantial population of OBC Kushwaha, Vaishya, Yadav, and Muslim voters, along with fishermen - Nishads and Bhumihar.
However, the result of by-elections for two seats was neither good news nor bad for Mahagathbandhan as RJD retained the Mokama Assembly seat and the opposition BJP retained the Gopalganj Assembly seat. It is a different matter that leaders of both parties had claimed a big victory, which was far from the truth and contrary to the ground reality. BJP managed to retain their seat with a reduced margin, which was a setback for the saffron party.
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