PATNA: Political marriages make the strangest of allies. On the day of his sixth daughter Anushka’s wedding, to Chiranjeev Rao, son of Haryana Power Minister Ajay Singh Yadav, RJD boss Laloo Prasad Yadav made it clear he prefers Hamid Ansari as India’s next President. Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) was forced to state it has no aversion to Ansari’s candidature, though his name has been floated by its arch rival. Among bigwigs who attended the marriage was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Janata Dal (United) national spokesman Shivanand Tiwary.
Sources in Patna say the Janata Dal (United) is in no position to disapprove the name of a Muslim candidate, at a time when it is trying its best to woo the community back to its fold in Bihar. It was the Muslim vote—once a Laloo preserve—that swept Nitish into power a second time. The JD(U) has 20 Lok Sabha and nine Rajya Sabha MPs, besides 118 MLAs.
Shivanand told a section of the media that though his party has not yet decided on the candidate to support, Hamid Ansari, being a Muslim and a qualified person, is not a bad choice. Ironically, Laloo is opposed to the candidature of another Muslim, former president Abdul Kalam. “Kalam has been president once, so the Vice President should now be the President,” he declared.
The Congress had chosen Ansari as its vice presidential nominee at a time when the Left was a UPA ally, before the Indo-US nuclear deal fracas. Now, with Laloo being a UPA ally and endorsing Ansari, the buzz in Patna is that he is playing the Congress game, and Nitish has no choice but to agree. By doing this, sources argue , the UPA will have won over Nitish by default, robbing the Opposition of valuable votes in the presidential polls. Thus it can’t be denied that the RJD is playing a crucial role in neutralising efforts to install a non-Congress candidate in Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Nitish Kumar was also present at Anushka’s wedding. Nitish had also attended the marriage ceremony of Laloo’s fifth daughter Hema at the same venue in March this year, which was also attended by the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. Ironically, Abdul Kalam was the last visitor at Nitish Kumar’s pet project, the Nalanda University. He resigned from the project last year.