Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bikramganj Diasppoints Lalu

Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] candidate Meena Singh, wife of late Ajit Singh won the by-election to Bihar's Bikramganj Lok Sabha constituency, defeating her nearest Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) rival Ashok Kumar Kushwaha by 31,258 votes.

While Mrs Singh secured 1,65,664 votes, Kushwaha polled 1,34,406 votes, Rohtas district magistrate and returning officer for the by poll Vishwanath Singh informed.

Bahujan Samaj Party's Baliram Mishra finished third with 39,647 votes and Arun Kumar Singh, the candidate of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI-ML] secured 37,607 votes.

Barring the winner and RJD nominee, all ten others in the fray, including the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and CPI-ML candidates forfeited their security deposits.

JD-U state president Rajiv Ranjan Singh is reported to have said that the result was on expected lines. Lalu Prasad had described the by-poll as a “referendum” on the performance of the Nitish Kumar's two-year-old Government. RJD had been banking on a Yadav-Kushwaha-Muslim alignment. It was also banking on resentment among upper castes over Kumar's 50% quota for Etremely Backward Castes (EBCs) limiting their political opportunities in panchayats and local bodies.

The EBCs in Bihar include the Kahars, Dhanuks, Kumhars, Lohars, Telis, Tatmas, Mallahs, Nais, Noniyas, Kevats and Paneris about 108 castes in all, without any overwhelming presence like the upper backwards such as Yadavs, Kurmis and Koeris although they make up almost 32 per cent of the state’s population.

There was no EBC representative in the 1962 Bihar Vidhan Sabha. In 1967, of the 82 backward caste representatives, only 5 were EBC. Between 1967 and 1985, there were a maximum of 7. There were 6 EBCs in the 1990 Vidhan Sabha; that number rose to 16 in the 1995 Vidhan Sabha. In the current Vidhan Sabha, there are 19 EBC MLAs.

With just one-and-a-half years to go before the next round of Lok Sabha polls to be held, the RJD’s disappointing show has set alarm bells ringing. The process of adverse change in Lalu’s hold began in the panchayat elections held in Bihar after 23 years in 2001.

Meena Singh who will now represent Bikramganj in the Lok Sabha said that the good work initiated by her late husband and the development plank of the Nitish government ensured her victory. Ajit Singh, who was also the chairman of NAFED.

JD(U) has managed to win all by-elections since it came to power two years ago, including Manihari and Islam assembly and Nalanda Lok Sabha, while ally BJP won Bhagalpur Lok Sabha.

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