Defeats in bypolls are always followed by victory in the next election, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Thursday, playing down the significance of his Janata Dal (United) losing three seats in by-elections in the state. The JDU, which contested four of the five seats where polls were held, lost two - Bakhtiarpur and Belhar - to rival Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and another to an independent candidate. It was left with only the Nathnagar constituency. The JDU also failed to win the one Lok Sabha seat on offer - Samastipur - which was retained by ally Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Last year, when bypolls were held for two Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat, the JDU lost Jehanabad and Jokihat to the RJD, which also retained the Araria parliamentary constituency.
However, in Lok Sabha elections that were held in April-May, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the JDU is a part, swept 39 of 40 seats in the state; the JDU won 16, the BJP 17 and the LJP one.
Similarly, in by-elections in 2009, the NDA won only five of 18 seats on offer. The rest were divided between the RJD and the LJP, which were in alliance at the time, with the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and an independent candidate picking up the rest.
That defeat was followed by an emphatic win for the JDU in full Assembly elections the following year, when, allied with the BJP, the party claimed a total of 206 seats and the RJD with only 22 seats.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi has promised to introspect on the poor results of the bypoll but tweeted assuring that the NDA will win big in Assembly polls expected in the state next year.
The silver lining in all of this is that Nitish Kumar is now unlikely to be subject to pressure from sitting MPs to field relatives in any future elections, with voters indicating distrust of dynasty politics.
One after the other, candidates with links to elected leaders toppled across the state. The list included JDU's Ajay Singh in Daraunda. Mr Singh is the husband of Kavita Singh, the party's parliamentarian from Siwan. In Banka, MP Giridhari Yadav could not ensure the victory of his brother Laldhari Yadav, who lost to RJD's Ramdeo Yadav.
The fifth Assembly seat in these by-elections was that of Kishanganj, which was won by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) candidate Kamarul Hoda, who beat the BJP's Sweety Singh by 10,204 votes. The seat was previously held by Mohammad Jawed of the Congress and fell vacant after he was elected to the Lok Sabha. The Congress opted to field his mother, Sayeda Banu, but she finished a poor third.
Nitish Kumar may feel vindicated by the fact that the BJP's focus on the government's Article 370 move, or the end of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, didn't work on the ground. The Chief Minister had differed with the BJP on the subject and his MPs also boycotted the vote on the move after a token protest in parliament.
Also, the election results in Maharashtra and Haryana are seen to have left the BJP dependent on others for numbers - a scenario that would interest allies like Nitish Kumar. Sources say he has not forgotten the humiliation of being denied proportional representation in the central cabinet after the BJP's outsized victory in the national election.