Also, Lalu Yadav, jailed since December, easily retained the Araria parliamentary seat, defeating the BJP; Nitish's JDU did not put up its own candidate. So, of the three by-elections in Bihar yesterday, Nitish contested one (Jehanabad) and lost that. Lalu's RJD retained both Araria and Jehanabad; the BJP held onto Bhabhua.
Nitish Kumar campaigned for all the three by-elections, but said publicly that the sympathy factor outweighs any other consideration among voters if an election is held after the death of the sitting legislator or MP, which was the case for all three Bihar seats. Though he first said he would not field candidates or campaign, he eventually did both, reportedly under pressure from BJP chief Amit Shah.
Tejashwi, who sarcastically calls Nitish "chacha" (father's younger brother), underscored that last night, tweeting that "he has to tightly fight against this 28 yrs old Baccha. I know Chacha didn't sleep last night" (sic).
Chacha Nitish Ji is restless because he thought with his malicious designs, venomous poly-tics & help of BJP, they hv managed to jail People's Massiah @laluprasadrjd Ji but now he has to tightly fight against this 28 yrs old Baccha.— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) March 15, 2018
I know Chacha didn't sleep last night
The 20-something was Deputy Chief Minister when Nitish broke up with the RJD and swapped it with the BJP as his ally. Nitish said corruption allegations against Tejashwi and his brother, Tej Pratap, also then a minister, made it unfeasible for him to remain in partnership with them. The Yadavs said that was a sorry excuse for Nitish's "opportunism" in joining the BJP because its winning streak seemed uncontainable.
After Lalu was jailed in December last year for corruption during his term as Bihar Chief Minister in the 90s, Tejashwi, considered an immature and inconsistent politician reaping the benefits of his father's status, began evolving. He held public meetings across the state, drawing huge audiences to whom he sold his father as a man imprisoned on fake charges by a vindictive BJP. Sample: "If my father had caved into the BJP (by stopping his criticism of its policies), he would have been the Harishchandra of Indian politics."
Tejashwi also reached out to former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a leader of stature among the Manjhis. Manjhi joined the RJD as an ally two weeks ago, exiting the BJP-led coalition.
But what really worked for him was the anger against the Nitish Kumar government over its prohibition policy and the scarcity of sand as a result of a crackdown on illegal mining which has ended all construction. Tejashwi started promising people that when his party comes to power, it will cancel these "fake" cases against those arrested for selling liquor or facilitating illegal mining. In Bihar, more than one lakh people have been arrested since April 2016 when prohibition was enforced.
So the big learning in Bihar is this - Tejashwi Yadav can lead his party to victory even without his father at the centre of the RJD. His other message to Bihar is tongue-in-cheek - Chacha, he says, isn't old enough to lead you much longer; me, I can serve you for another 50 years; choose wisely.
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