Jokihat bypoll was the RJD’s third success after Nitish Kumar walked out of the grand alliance.
Mr Kumar also spoke at some length on his party Janata Dal United’s defeat in last month’s bypolls in Jokihat, insisting that he had always worked hard for all communities of Bihar and did not care if they voted for him.
“In Jokihat, I did not even ask for votes… I told people that my work is before you. If you want to vote on work then please vote for Janata Dal United,” Mr Kumar said about the seat that the Rashtriya Janata Dal led by former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav had wrested from the JDU.
This was the RJD’s third success after Nitish Kumar walked out of the grand alliance with the RJD and Congress, and quickly teamed up with the BJP to continue as Chief Minister. The JDU had lost the last two by-elections in Jehanabad and Araria.
It isn’t that Nitish Kumar, 67, did not try.
The soft-spoken but sharp politician had deployed half his cabinet in Jokihat in east Bihar and addressed a public meeting in the last lap of the election campaign, promising voters special attention if they voted his party candidate Murshid Alam. The JDU candidate, who has seven criminal cases registered against him including one of rape, lost the election by a margin of 40,000 votes.
Some analysts have suggested that a large number of Muslims did not vote for the JDU candidate because Mr Kumar had partnered with the BJP.
Turning to the Muslim community at Tuesday’s JDU event, Mr Kumar referred to this perception as well.
“Who you voted to, I don’t have anything to do with it… It is your wish… We worked and will keep on working. But tell me, where did we compromise (with your interests),” the chief minister asked.
Mr Kumar underlined that he had stood by his vision for the state and consistently drawn up and implemented policies for the welfare of all communities since November 2005 when he started out as chief minister.
From 2015, the chief minister said, he had started out working on the ‘Saat NIschay’ (seven resolves) programme and was still working on them. The “seven resolves” programme is seen as an effort to reach amenities to people including clean drinking water, electricity, toilets and better access to higher education.
Mr Kumar’s message was that he had been steadfastly working for the state’s development and it really did not matter who his alliance partners were. “Whichever alliance it may be… I have worked the same way,” he said.
“When I was there, you asked the maximum questions… about zero tolerance to corruption… And still, when I split on the point of zero tolerance,” the chief minister said, defending his decision last July to divorce the grand alliance and reboot his partnership with the BJP.
His former partners the RJD and Congress say their alliance got a massive mandate in the 2015 assembly elections on an anti-BJP plank and so Mr Kumar’s decision to partner with the BJP is unethical.