Bihar bypoll first litmus test for Nitish

The Assembly bypoll at Harlakhi in Madhubani on February 13 will be the first major litmus test for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s credo of good governance.

The byelection has been necessitated following the untimely demise of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader Basant Kumar who died of a heart attack just a day before he was to take oath as MLA on November 29 – the day earmarked for swearing-in of newly-elected legislators.

Basant was one of the few NDA leaders who romped home in the Grand Alliance wave in November 2015 Assembly elections. He had defeated the Congress’s Mohammad Shabbir by a slender margin of 4,000 votes.

In a bid to encash sympathy arising out of Basant’s demise, the RLSP has fielded the late leader’s son Sudhanshu Kushwaha, a political greenhorn, as the NDA candidate.

On the other hand, the Grand Alliance, comprising the JD(U), RJD and the Congress, has decided to field veteran Congressman Md Shabbir again as he had lost the November poll by a narrow margin.
Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shakeel Ahmad, Raj Babbar and actor Nagma are likely to canvass for Shabbir.

At the same time, the NDA is leaving no stone unturned to make it a prestigious battle. “The popularity of Nitish Kumar has nosedived in the last two months, particularly after sharp rise in crime graph throughout the state. We are sure the electorate of Harlakhi will re-confirm our belief and give a befitting reply to the Grand Alliance which has ushered in Jungle Raj much faster than we had anticipated,” said Bihar BJP president Mangal Pandey.

The leaders of BJP, LJP, RLSP and the fledgling outfit of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, HAM, are jointly canvassing for the victory of RLSP nominee.

However, the Congress feels the Harlakhi bypoll will help the grand old party shore up its number. “We are confident the winning streak of Grand Alliance will continue and the Congress’ tally will increase after the byelection,” said Bihar Congress president Ashok Choudhary.

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