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Why RJD Won Only 4 Seats!

June 10, 2024 15:59 IST
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The RJD polled the highest vote share in Bihar, but it was not reflected in the number of seats it won.

IMAGE: Rahul Gandhi and Tejashwi Yadav at an election meeting in Patna, May 27, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Despite securing 22.14 per cent votes -- the highest by any political party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Bihar -- the Rashtriya Janata Dal won only four seats. This after an aggressive campaign by Tejashwi Yadav, the RJD leader.

The RJD's poor tally upset the calculation of the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan, which is a part of the INDIA bloc.

The Mahagathbandhan won nine Lok Sabha seats -- the RJD won four of the 23 seats it contested, the Congress won three of the nine it contested and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist won two of the three seats it was given as per the seat-sharing pact.

Congress leader Pappu Yadav, who contested as an Independent from Purnea, won his seat.

In 2019, the RJD did not win a single Lok Sabha seat.

According to Election Commission data, the RJD's vote share was 22.14 per cent, the Congress's was 9.20 per cent, the CPI-ML's vote share was 2.99 per cent. The Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist secured 1.31 per cent and 0.87 per cent votes respectively.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the RJD's vote share was 15.68 per cent and the Congress's was 7.85 per cent.

IMAGE: Tejashwi Yadav arrives to attend the INDIA bloc leaders' meeting in New Delhi, June 5, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance won 39 of 40 seats in the 2019 elections. But this time, the NDA won 30 seats.

The BJP won 12 of the 17 seats it contested, the Janata Dal-United also won 12 -- it contested 16 -- seats. Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party-Ram Vilas won all five seats it contested.

The BJP's vote share in Bihar was 20.52 per cent, followed by the JD-U's 18.52 per cent. The LJP-R secured 6.47 per cent of votes.

The NDA won 45.52 per cent votes, which is 9.05 per cent more votes than the Mahagatbandhan's 36.47 per cent.

In the 2019 elections, the NDA secured 22.49 per cent more votes than the Mahagathbandhan.

The BJP's 2019 vote share was 24.05 per cent, the JD-U's was 22.26 per cent.

IMAGE: Tejashwi being assisted to his car after he experienced sudden back pain. Photograph: ANI Photo

Tejashwi Yadav addressed 251 election meetings in Bihar during the campaign in severe heatwave conditions and observers are puzzled at the RJD's poor strike rate.

Unlike NDA leaders, who either raised communal issues or resorted to personal attacks against Tejashwi's parents Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi, calling their rule 'jungle raj', Tejashwi made 'rozgar, naukri, manhgai aur garibi' (employment, jobs, price rise and poverty) the highlights of his poll campaign.

Political observers in Patna say Tejashwi has designed a recipe to expand his party's traditional support base from the well-tested Muslim-Yadav equation into an 'A to Z party'.

But on the ground, this formula is yet to gain acceptance as reflected in the 2024 results.

RJD chief Lalu Yadav tried to appeal to Kushwaha voters -- the Kushwahas are an agrarian OBC caste considered JD-U supporters -- by fielding candidates belonging to the caste. It worked in Aurangabad, where RJD candidate Abhay Kushwaha defeated the BJP's Sushil Kumar Singh, a Rajput.

In other seats, the RJD's Kushwaha candidates were unsuccessful, but they obtained an overwhelming share of votes from their caste, along with traditional MY votes and others.

Tejashwi has also been trying to make a dent in Mallah votes, an EBC caste considered loyal to the NDA.

During the election campaign, Vikashsheel Inssan Party chief Mukesh Sahni, who calls himself the 'Son of a Mallah', accompanied Tejashwi everywhere in his campaign helicopter.

IMAGE: Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi and their daughter and the party's unsuccessful Saran candidate Dr Rohini Acharya, after casting their votes in Patna, June 1, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Political commentator D M Diwakar says Tejashwi worked hard, raised basic issues during his campaign and pulled in high percentage of votes.

The credit for all this goes to him, but the vote share has not been converted into seats. Sometimes it happens because social chemistry makes many things different in different constituencies.

"Tejashwi has successfully mobilised people, it might not be reflected in the number of seats, but high vote share is a strength, it will be reflected in the 2025 Bihar assembly polls," observes Diwakar, a former director of the A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna.

Diwakar points out that social chemistry also plays its role in the poll outcome. In Saran, RJD candidate Rohini Acharya was defeated by the BJP's incumbent MP Rajeev Pratap Rudy by 12,000 votes.

Two Independent candidates -- one Muslim and one Yadav -- got more than 36,000 votes, upsetting the RJD's MY equation and damaging its social support base, resulting in Rohini's defeat.

IMAGE: Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar with Tejashwi Yadav on board a flight to Delhi, in Patna, June 5, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Another political commentator Satyanarayan Madan points out that Bihar's politics is still trapped in the circle of caste equations.

"The RJD is struggling to gain the support of non-Yadav OBC and EBC voters," says Madan. "The party is only getting the support of a section of Dalits. Nitish Kumar is by default still getting the support of non-Yadav OBCs and a large chunk of EBCs."

"This adds strength to the BJP's core support base among the upper castes, OBCs, Vaishyas, Dalits and others," adds Madan. "This is the reason the NDA's vote share is nine percent more than that of the Mahagathbandhan."

Two NDA constituents -- the LJP-R and Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha -- enjoy good support among the Dalits.

Of the six reserved seats in Bihar, the LJP-R won three seats, including Hajipur, while one seat each was won by JD-U and HAM candidate.

Only one reserved seat -- Sasaram -- was won by the Congress.

The RJD has not been able to win any reserved seat in the state since 2004.

IMAGE: Independent candidate Pappu Yadav won the Purnea seat, June 4, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The RJD also took decisions that cost the party in the Lok Sabha polls. It forced the Congress not to field Pappu Yadav from Purnea.

Pappu Yadav contested as an Independent and defeated the JD-U's incumbent MP Santosh Kushwaha. RJD candidate Bima Bharti stood third.

IMAGE: Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and then Bihar assembly speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary in Patna, January 15, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The RJD also failed to convince Hena Shahab, the late party MP and the dreaded gangster-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin's wife, to contest as an RJD candidate from Siwan. Hena had earlier alleged that she and her family were ignored by the RJD after her husband's death.

Siwan was once considered her late husband's stronghold. Hena has unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls thrice after 'Saheb' -- as she used to call Shahabuddin -- was jailed in 2005.

Hena contested the 2024 election this time as an Independent and lost again. But her presence in the fray resulted in senior RJD leader and former Bihar assembly speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary's defeat.

Choudhary came in third with 198,823 votes, while Hena Shahab secured 293,651 votes. JD-U nominee Vijayalakshmi Devi won, polling 386,508 votes.

Tejashwi was the Mahagathbandan's solitary campaigner pitted against an array of NDA leaders like Narendra D Modi, Amit A Shah, Nitish Kumar, Rajnath Singh and J P Nadda.

Modi visited Bihar nine times to campaign for NDA candidates and also held a roadshow in Patna on May 12, a first by a PM.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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