Bochaha result throws Bihar’s political equations into disarray

Cross-caste support for the RJD candidate has shaken the BJP

April 18, 2022 08:08 pm | Updated 08:08 pm IST - Patna

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav being garlanded by supporters after party’s victory in Bochaha assembly constituency by-elections, in Patna.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav being garlanded by supporters after party’s victory in Bochaha assembly constituency by-elections, in Patna. | Photo Credit: PTI

The unexpected result of the Bochaha Assembly by-poll result has upset political equations in Bihar. The coming together of otherwise polarised Other Backward Class Yadavs and upper caste Bhumihars with the support of Extremely Backward Sahanis/ Mallahs (fishermen) voters has posed a challenge to the electoral surge of BJP in the State.

The BJP had no reason to foresee the result, more so after it become the single largest party with 77 MLAs in the Assembly after all three MLAs of the Mukesh Sahani-led Vikashil Insaan Party (VIP) switched over recently. But the party’s decision thereafter to request that Mr. Sahani be dropped from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet proved a costly mistake.

The BJP apparently failed to guage the impact that an offended Mr. Sahani could have on the crucial 35,000 Sahani/ Mallah votes in Bochaha. Despite having as many as 35 party MLAs and several ministers covering the constituency in an intense campaign, down to the block level, the BJP’s Baby Kumari lost by over 36,000 votes.

Disgruntled group

The other factor in Bochaha was the simmering discontent among the sizeable upper caste Bhumihars over being sidelined in the 2020 Assembly polls as well as the more recent State Council elections. The presence of Bhumihar BJP ministers and MLAs during the campaign failed to woo the over 50,000 voters of the community.

“Bhumihar is not a captive community of any political party. We’re not bonded to always vote for the BJP and we’ve shown this in Bochaha Assembly by-poll,” said a youth leader Ashutosh Kumar who had campaigned extensively, requesting his community members to support the Opposition RJD candidate Amar Paswan.

Mr. Paswan secured 48.52% or 82, 562 votes to defeat incumbent Baby Kumari who got 26.98% (45,904 votes). The VIP candidate Geeta Kumari received 17.21% or 29,279 votes.

“The Opposition RJD candidate even got more votes that the combined votes of BJP and VIP candidates. It is clear that a large number of upper caste Bhumihars have voted for the RJD candidate, giving a warning to the BJP. It was definitely a new political equation seen emerging in Bochaha,” said political analyst Ajay Kumar. “The winning path for RJD candidate was also facilitated by EBC Sahani / Mallah voters due to humiliation meted out to the community leader Mukesh Sahani by the BJP,” he added.

Mr. Sahani had campaigned hard in Bochaha reaching out to his community members, explaining them why he was dropped from the Nitish Kumar cabinet and managed to make a major dent into BJP votes. After the result came out and even while his party’s candidate Geeta Kumari secured third position Mr. Sahani was seen distributing sweets among his supporters, saying “The purpose of defeating BJP in by-poll was served”.

Haar mein hi jeet hai (it’s our victory in defeat),” he said.

The simmering differences between two ruling NDA allies — BJP and JD(U) — too have resurfaced after the polls results.

Janata Malik Hai (people are our masters),” quipped Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the poll result. Mr Kumar had campaigned for the BJP candidate for a single day and, local people told The Hindu, he put more focus in his campaign speech on the social reform campaign he is spearheading in the state than appealing to voters to endorse the BJP’s Baby Kumari.

“BJP lost in Bochaha because of its leaders keep targeting Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,” JD(U) MLC Khalid Anwar said.

“The Bochaha by-poll result, in fact, has sent several messages to the ruling NDA in Bihar,” said a senior State BJP leader preferring anonymity. “It’s a humiliating result.”.

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