Grand Alliance Likely to Contest Rajya Sabha By-election in Bihar
The opposition Grand Alliance in Bihar is likely to throw its hat in the ring for the Rajya Sabha seat, which has fallen vacant upon the death of former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, sources in the five-party coalition said on Sunday. The BJP-led NDA, of which the late leader’s Lok Janshakti Party has been a constituent, has fielded former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who will file his nomination papers on December 2.
Paswan’s son Chirag, who currently heads the LJP and had burnt his fingers recently by going solo in the assembly polls, sought to downplay the cold-shoulder received from the NDA, saying “the seat belonged to the BJP. It is for the party to decide whom to field in the by-election”. Paswan had got elected, unopposed, in a by-poll last year necessitated by his cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad winning the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat.
However, the RJD, which heads the Grand Alliance, had on Saturday indicated that it was not willing to give a walkover to the NDA. In a statement, the party’s spokesman Shakti Yadav had said “the BJP has acted out of spite (‘khunnas’) by denying the seat to the LJP. Had the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s party been allowed to contest, we would have considered supporting their candidate even though his party is not our alliance partner”.
Meanwhile, sources in the Grand Alliance said the feelers have been sent to Chirag that he consider fielding his mother Reena Paswan from the seat and assured him of its “full support”. The offer appears to have put the 37-year-old LJP president in a bind as agreeing to the offer would be tantamount to burning his bridges with the BJP, to which he claims to remain loyal despite his brinkmanship, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for whom he expresses unreserved admiration.
The LJP chief has been maintaining that his misadventure in the recent elections stemmed from the conviction that there was resentment in the state against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U). Numbers in the state assembly, too, appear to be in favour of the NDA, which now includes smaller parties like VIP and HAM. The ruling coalition has 125 MLAs in the 243-strong assembly as against only 110 of the Grand Alliance.
The opposition coalition, which hopes to rally along parties like Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM which has five MLAs, is of the view that such a contest would be a win-win situation as even if Reena Paswan were to lose, the NDA would end up angering a large section of Dalits. Sources in the Grand Alliance also said that if Chirag did not come out with a positive response, the coalition might still go ahead and field its candidate for the seat, engaging in yet another trial of strength with the ruling NDA.
Filing of nomination papers will come to a close on December 3. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is December 7 and voting is scheduled on December 14.