Bihar assembly bypolls, a litmus test for Kanhaiya Kumar

Two assembly bypolls which are going to be held on October 30 have far reaching consequences not only for Bihar politics but even for the national politics.

Tarapur and Kusheshwar Sthan are the two assembly seats which are going for the bypolls. Tarapur lies in Munger district of central Bihar while Kusheshwar Sthan lies in Darbhanga district of Mithila region in northern Bihar. Both seats were won by the Janata Dal United in 2020 assembly elections by a slight margin of 7,222 and 7,225 votes respectively. A united opposition with minute strategy can challenge the ruling NDA from here. But the friction in the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar is a big sticking point to the Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav.

If the Opposition will be able to defeat the ruling party candidates then it can have ramifications in Bihar politics.

Demand of the RJD to fight Kusheshwar Sthan assembly seat is also justified to an extent as the performance of the Congress Party in Bihar in bypolls has been below expectation.

Kishanganj assembly bypoll is a case in point. The Congress won Kishanganj assembly seat in 2015, but in the 2019 bypoll, held after the incumbent MLA Md Jawed was elected to Parliament, the Congress came the poor third. However, the Congress won the seat again in 2020.

Even in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress candidate ensured comfortable lead on Kishanganj assembly segment, but the Congress candidate performed miserably in the 2019 bypoll. If one goes by the performance of the Congress Party in bypolls across the country, we see that its performance has not been up to the mark.

The role of Kanhaiya Kumar in Bihar bypolls will be a litmus test of his popularity, since in both Kusheshwar Sthan and Tarapur assembly seats, the Congress Party and the RJD lost by a narrow margin. It’s a good test case for Kanhaiya Kumar to prove his mettle by ensuring victory on the seats, particularly Kusheshwar Sthan.

Congress candidate from Kusheshwar Sthan, Atirek Kumar, is the son of Ashok Kumar, party candidate from the same seat in 2020. Besides Ashok Kumar is a senior leader of Bihar unit of the Congress.

Kanhaiya Kumar’s performance as CPI candidate from Begusarai Lok Sabha seat in 2019 was highly unsatisfactory. Of the seven assembly segments of Begusarai, Kanhiya was unable to come to number one in terms of votes in any of the assembly segments. Even on two assembly segments of Sahebpur Kamal and on Cheria Bariarpur, Kanhaiya came on the third spot behind the RJD candidate Tanweer Hasan.

Till now Kanhaiya Kumar is tight-lipped on his role as party campaigner or as a party leader in Kusheshwar Sthan.

The Bihar state unit of the Congress Party is also not very enthusiastic about the induction of Kanhaiya Kumar. The BPCC may demand campaigning by Kanhaiya Kumar to test his popularity. In case of dismal performance, his credibility will come under severe criticism. He may be called NPA (Non-performing asset) not only by the media, opposition parties but also by a section of BPCC leaders who are apprehensive that Kanhaiya may be imposed on them as senior office-bearer by the party high-command so the different factions of the unit are burying their hatchet to corner Kanhaiya. If one goes by the media reports, it seems that the party high command had not consulted the local unit on Kanhaiya’s induction.

One theory also postulates that the Congress will use Kanhiya Kumar in states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or in states where the party had to cash in the anti-incumbency of the BJP as star campaigner of the party. In states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura where the party had lost all chances of revival, Kanhaiya has no role as Congress Party leader or campaigner, political analysts say.