PATNA: Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Stranger behaviour follows, inevitably. Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United) seems bent on humiliating its partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the disastrous performance of both in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh polls, at the same time working together to select candidates for the coming Rajya Sabha elections.
The two allies were engaged in a bitter war of words over Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar campaigning against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The JD(U) contested 200 seats in and lost them all. The poll diatribe against the BJP continued in Patna until late last week with JD(U) National General Secretary K C Tyagi—an aide of JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav—accusing the saffron party of being selective about alliances during the Assembly election.
But alliances themselves can be selective on issues: the BJP and JD(U) will come together to contest six Rajya Sabha and 11 Legislative Council seats later this month. The notification for the biennial election will be issued on March 12 and voting, if required, is scheduled for March 30. The largest opposition party, the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), has a strength of only 22 members in a House of 243; the Congress has four and the LJP and the CPI one each. The Opposition in Bihar is thus in no position to send a member to the Upper House of Parliament and the Bihar Council as a minimum of 35 votes would be required by each candidate to win. The JD(U) has 118 legislators and the BJP has 91, making a total 209. To win all the six seats, the NDA will require 210 votes and all it needs is support from any one of the Independent candidates, a feat, JD(U) sources say, isn’t too difficult.
Those retiring from the Rajya Sabha from Bihar are Anil Sahni, Mahendra Prasad and Ali Anwar Ansari of the JD(U), Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP, and Jabir Husain and Rajniti Prasad of the RJD. They will complete their term on April 2. NDA leaders have indicated four seats will go to the JD(U) and two to the BJP. The names of the candidates have not been revealed yet. The last date for filing nominations is March 19; withdrawals can be made till March 2.
Reports say that State JD(U) President Vashisht Narayan Singh may be one candidate. The political grapevine in Patna says a couple of journalists are also likely to be nominated on a JD(U) ticket. Besides, there is the likelihood of the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley opting for Bihar for re-election instead of Gujarat, which has sent him to the Rajya Sabha.
The reason for this, according to BJP insiders in the state, is that Jaitley is closer to Nitish Kumar than his Gujarat counterpart, Narendra Modi. BJP National General Secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad is expected to be nominated for the third time though the party has adopted the principle of not clearing a candidate who has had two consecutive terms in the Rajya Sabha. This is when Tyagi made it amply clear that the BJP’s alliance with the JD(U) in Bihar is running successfully only thanks to the magnanimity of Nitish Kumar. Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar has denied any intentions of leaving the NDA and joining a ‘Fourth Front’.