In a major setback to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), ahead of the Assembly polls in Bihar, five members of the legislative council have left the party to join Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).
Confirming the resignations, Awadhesh Narayan Singh, Chairman of the Legislative Council said the party’s vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh along with Radha Charan Shah (2015), Sanjay Prasad (2015), Dilip Rai (2015), Md Kamar Alam (2016) and Ranvijay Kumar Singh (2016) have resigned from their posts.
According to local media reports, all the members who have resigned were close to the party chief, however, were facing trouble under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav and the ongoing dynasty politics of the RJD.
As per a report in Hindustan Times, a formal letter of the RJD MLCs joining the opposition party has been handed over by chief whip of the JD(U) Reena Devi to acting chairman of the legislative council.
The elections will be held for nine seats of the Legislative Council on July 6, with Tej Pratap Yadav expected to be announced as one of the candidates.
According to sources, the five MLCs who have resigned were not happy with the decision of Tej Pratap Yadav being elected to the Legislative Council to fight for the last of the nine seats.
The Legislative Council elections to be held ahead the assembly polls are being considered as the semi-final round, since the MLCs will be elected on the basis of the number of members of the assembly.
In the current situation, JD(U) with 21 MLCs arises as the single largest party in the 75-member council, which presently has a strength of 46 as 29 seats are lying vacant. The BJP has 16 MLCs in the council and also has the support of an independent candidate.
In the first week of May, Ministers Ashok Chaudhary, Executive Chairman of Legislative Council Harun Rasid, Hira Prasad Bind, PK Shahi, Satish Kumar, Sone Lal Mehta, Krishna Kumar Singh, Radha Mohan Sharma and Sanjay Prakash completed their tenures, opening elections to be held for nine seats.
The RJD appeared to be in turmoil on Monday when a large number of disgruntled party leaders created a ruckus in front of the residence of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s wife Rabri Devi, demanding ticket for legislative council elections in Bihar for a veteran leader.
Biennial elections to the Upper House, for nine seats falling under the Vidhan Sabha constituency, are underway and the RJD has announced that it will be fielding three candidates whose names would be made public upon approval from Prasad currently in Ranchi, serving sentences in fodder scam cases.
Speculations are rife that the party may give one ticket each to the upper castes, non-Yadav OBC’s and the minorities in a bid to project an inclusive image ahead of the assembly elections due in a few months.
However, hundreds of angry supporters from Raghopur the assembly segment formerly represented by Prasad and now by his heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav staged a demonstration in front of 10, Circular Road, the government bungalow allotted to Rabri Devi in her capacity as a former chief minister.
The party workers were demanding that the RJD fulfil its “promise” of a Vidhan Parishad berth to Uday Narain Rai alias Bhola babu who had represented Raghopur several times in the 1970s and 1980s and given up his claim on the seat in the 2015 assembly polls to enable Tejashwi Yadav make his debut at the young age of 25. They got livid upon being told that Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav, who lives at her mother’s place, were ready to hold talks with a delegation comprising “not more than 15 people”.
Terming the gesture as an “insult” the RJD workers left but told journalists present at the spot that they would have to reconsider their ties with the party and that “Tejashwi Yadav may have to pay the price in assembly polls”.
Filing of nomination papers for the election will come to a close on June 25 and neither the opposition camp led by the RJD, nor the ruling NDA have revealed the names of their candidates.
However, a broad understanding seems to have been arrived at in the NDA that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) will field three candidates, and the BJP will contest two seats.
In the five-party Grand Alliance headed by the RJD, the Congress is also expected to get one seat. However, developments are taking place which may queer the pitch for the opposition camp.
Sulking Grand Alliance partner Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is the founding president of Hindustani Awam Morcha, held a meeting of his party at his residence amid speculations that he was planning a return to the NDA.
A former JD(U) leader who fell apart with Nitish Kumar when made to step down as chief minister to make way for his patron, Manjhi fought the 2015 assembly polls as an NDA constituent, winning only one of the two seats he contested while all candidates of his party lost.
He crossed over to the Grand Alliance in March, 2018 apparently discomfited by Kumar’s return to the NDA.
Even as the RJD rewarded him with a legislative council berth for his son Santosh Manjhi from its own quota, the septuagenarian enjoys a less than cordial relationship with Tejashwi Yadav.
Bihar minister and JD(U) leader Ashok Choudhary said, “Nitish Kumar is a dependable leader and it should surprise nobody if people join us in the run up to assembly elections. If Manjhi returns, it will be homecoming for him though a final decision is to be taken by our national president”.
Earlier in the day, Manjhi had dropped ample hints that his aversion to Nitish Kumar had passed, saying “nobody is a permanent friend or foe in politics”.
He is, however, said to be hesitant over the condition put up by the JD(U) for his return that he merges HAM with the parent outfit.
“I hope things will be sorted out in the Grand Alliance till June 25. If not, our party will meet on June 26 and I will follow whatever decision it takes”, Manjhi said cryptically.
Meanwhile, the RLSP headed by former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha, raised alarm over the happenings in the Grand Alliance.
“All is not well in the Grand Alliance. We must act before it is too late. Candidates for the legislative council must be announced while taking care that promises made by parties to each other were fulfilled”, RLSP national general secretary Madhaw Anand said in a statement.
(With inputs from agencies)