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Bihar: Mahagathbandhan Gears up to Take on BJP in Upcoming Bypolls

Sensing a challenge, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav are likely to campaign together.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav. Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Unlike the recently held by-elections for two seats in Bihar, ruling Mahagathbandhan has been fully geared up to take on the main political rival, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the upcoming by-poll for the Kurhani Assembly seat in Muzaffarpur district that will be held on December 5.

Sensing a challenge, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav are likely to campaign together. They will jointly address a public meeting and will meet local Mahagathbandhan leaders to boost their confidence on the ground ahead of by-polls.

"Mahagathbandhan has named Manoj Kushwaha as its joint candidate in Kurhani and will campaign vigorously to retain the seat. We will not give any chance to BJP or others to wrest the seat from us this time. A joint team of Mahagathbandhan leaders and workers have been working in the rural constituency to reach out to voters as much as possible till early December," a senior JD-U leader, Neeraj Kumar, told NewsClick.

Neeraj Kumar said Nitish Kumar, who is the most popular JD-U leader, and young RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav will campaign together this time.

"Both will jointly address an election meeting."

According to the senior RJD leader Ejaz Ahmad, this will be the first time when chacha (Nitish Kumar) and bhatija (Tejashwi Yadav) will campaign jointly in a by-election after Nitish Kumar dumped the BJP, joined hands with RJD and formed the Mahagathbandhan government in the state in August this year.

Nitish Kumar did not campaign in by-elections for the Mokama and Gopalganj seats held on November 3 in the state, citing his injuries, but it was reported that Nitish Kumar had some strong reservations over candidates of his ally RJD. Last month it was announced by Mahagathbandhan leaders that Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav would campaign together, but laterNitish Kumar decided not to campaign. 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.

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. RJD and

BJP managed to retain their seat with a reduced margin, which is a setback for them, and there is nothing to celebrate.

Taking the by-poll in Kurhani as a testing ground to score a point over each other, both Mahagathbandhan and BJP leaders will do everything to woo voters. JD-U has already deployed a number of its leaders there and made some of them in charge of different blocks for campaigning. The senior party leaders, including Lallan Singh and ministers, will campaign jointly with RJD, particularly Tejashwi Yadav, ahead of Nitish Kumar's elections rally there.

Similarly, BJP has instructed dozens of senior leaders, including former ministers, MPs, and MLAs, to camp in Kurhani for the campaign.

" The party is confident of repeating its performance of 2015 when BJP won the seat despite JD-U and RJD contesting together."

Other than Mahagathbandhan and BJP, the presence of a candidate of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and a candidate of Asaduddin Owaisi's All-India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the fray in Kurhani is set to add colouring to electioneering.

Though the main contest will be between Mahagathbandhan and BJP, 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 in 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 Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar.

Keeping this in view, BJP has reportedly decided to deploy some of the party Bhumihar faces to counter Mahagathbandhan friendly VIP's bid to cut the community votes that may harm it in by-polls. VIP chief Mukesh Sahni has repeatedly claimed that his party enjoys the overwhelming support of his caste men fishermen community and its candidate will pull his caste men Bhumihar support.

On the other hand, Mahagathbandhan leaders fully understand the game plan of AIMIM.

"In the by-election for the Gopalganj seat, AIMIM fielded a Muslim candidate who damaged the chance of RJD victory by getting over 12000 votes. It is widely accepted that AIMIM got votes from Muslims, who were considered loyal voters of RJD. It was the first time that AIMIM contested polls in Gopalganj, and by gaining votes, it challenged RJD outside the Seemanchal region of the state. But AIMIM helped BJP to retain Gopalganj seat," an RJD leader said.

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.

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