Nitish, Lalu face litmus test in Bihar by-poll

War of the titans

The June 2 Lok Sabha (LS) by-poll in Maharajganj constituency in Bihar will be a litmus test for Janata Dal-United strongman and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as well as for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.

While Nitish, who of late has strained his relationship with the BJP, has decided to field his close aide and state Human Resource Development Minister P K Sahi. Lalu will be fielding former MP Prabhunath Singh.

Prabhunath was earlier the JD-U MP from Maharajganj in 2004 but lost to RJD’s Umashankar Singh in 2009 by a narrow margin. Since then, Prabhunath has switched his loyalty after a tiff with Nitish and will now be contesting the by-poll on the RJD ticket.

But the by-election, which is being held a year before the next LS poll, may prove to be more than an electoral contest. For the first time in recent years, the NDA will be fielding its nominee against a backdrop which has seen trust deficit between the JD-U and the BJP hitting rock bottom.

“This time we will show Nitish his real place. The way he has been dictating terms and annoying our party cadres by spewing venom against Narendra Modi, he needs to be shown BJP’s worth. Without our whole-hearted support, he will soon realise what his might is,” said a senior minister from the BJP.

With the BJP more than willing to play the role of a saboteur, the JD-U, too, is treating the by-poll, as a litmus test. “We are not banking on BJP’s support. We want to examine how far the electorate has reposed their faith in Nitish’s good governance,” said a senior JD-U leader.

The Election Commission will issue the notification on May 8, and the last date for filing nomination is May 15.

The by-election has been necessitated following the demise of RJD MP Uma Shankar Singh.

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