RJD Fields Candidates for 2 RS Seats in Bihar, Snubs Congress
The RJD fielded Prem Chandra Gupta, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP and a political greenhorn Amarendra Dhari Singh.
The RJD on Thursday, 12 March, announced its candidates for two Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar that it seeks to wrest from the NDA, in a surprise move that caught off-guard the Congress, its alliance partner.
The RJD fielded Prem Chandra Gupta, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP and close aide of party president Lalu Prasad, and a political greenhorn Amarendra Dhari Singh.
They filed their nominations immediately after their names were announced by RJD state president Jagadanand Singh, who also scoffed at a recent "open letter" written by AICC in-charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil, reminding Tejashwi Yadav of the "promise" of giving it one seat.
According to Bihar Assembly secretary and returning officer Bateshwar Nath Pandey, both Prem Chand Gupta and Amarendra Dhari Singh have, so far, been the only candidates to have filed their nominations for the elections for the five RS seats.
Three NDA candidates - JD(U)'s Harivansh and Ram Nath Thakur and BJP's Vivek Thakur - are likely to submit their papers on Friday, the last day for filing nominations.
Tejashwi Yadav, Prasad's younger son and political heir, told reporters that the candidature of Gupta - a Vaishya - and Singh, an upper caste Bhumihar, "is a befitting reply to those who accuse the RJD of confining itself to MY (Muslim- Yadav combine)".
He, however, asserted that this was in no way a dilution of the party's commitment to social justice and uplift of OBCs, EBCs and Dalits, saying "we have introduced reservations for the weaker sections in our organization. We are the only party to do so".
The decision to nominate Gupta, a Haryana-born businessman who had served as a Union minister in the UPA-1 government, was being seen as a foregone conclusion since his current term from adjoining Jharkhand expires next month.
However, the choice of Amarendra Dhari Singh - a well-known city-based entrepreneur with hitherto unknown political affiliations - came as a big surprise.
The development brought down the curtains on speculations about the candidature of bigwigs like veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav, the party's national vice- president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and journalist-turned- politician Syed Faisal Ali, who had made an unsuccessful Lok Sabha debut from Sheohar last year.
‘Candidates Discussed with Sonia’
However, Yadav dismissed queries about these names with a cryptic smile and said, "We know about no other aspirants. Maybe people had shared their aspirations with you all."
He also asserted that the development will not lead to any hard feelings with the Congress, which had been seeking one seat to enable actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha's entry into Parliament after the former Patna Sahib MP was trounced by BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad in the Lok Sabha polls.
“There is going to be no problem as the candidates have been decided taking Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad, who share a deep personal bond, into confidence,” Yadav said.
However, middle-rung leaders of both parties seemed to be at each other's throats, with the Congress lashing out at Jagadanad Singh for calling "farzi" (fake) the letter made public by Gohil last week.
"An open letter is addressed to somebody in particular. This so-called open letter was addressed to nobody. It appears to be farzi," Singh had said.
Congress MLC and AICC media panelist Prem Chandra Mishra "strongly" criticised the RJD state president for "making derogatory remarks" about the communication by Gohil, "who went on record with the demand that was based on a promise made by Tejashwi Yadav".
During last year's Lok Sabha polls last year, Yadav had sought to assuage the Congress, which had been upset over getting only nine seats out of 40 in Bihar, by assuring that the RJD will help the alliance partner in getting a Congress leader elected to the Rajya Sabha.
In a 243-strong Assembly, the RJD has 79 MLAs and can easily get Gupta elected on its own. For Amarendra Dhari Singh, the RJD may need a few votes of the Congress and smaller parties like the CPI-ML and AIMIM.
Despite being in a sulk, the Congeress can ill-afford to be seen opposing an upper caste candidate in Bihar, where it stands largely marginalised.
With the JD(U)-BJP-LJP combine together having 127 seats, its candidates are likely to sail through without a hitch.
A Congress candidate or an independent jumping into the fray is highly unlikely in the state where official nominees of major political parties have repeatedly won Rajya Sabha elections without a contest.
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