Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar could face an unlikely challenger in her bid to retain Sasaram, the Lok Sabha seat that her father, Babu Jagjivan Ram represented, and which she has been winning for the last two elections.
K P Ramaiah, an IAS officer of the Bihar cadre who is originally from Andhra Pradesh, is likely to be the JD(U) candidate against Kumar.
The 59-year-old Ramaiah, who is principal secretary in the Bihar government’s scheduled caste and scheduled tribes welfare department, has sought voluntary retirement to contest the coming elections.
The officer, who was posted as Tirhut commissioner at Muzaffarpur, was transferred to Patna last week to “allow him time to start preparations”, sources said.
Interestingly, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy too is learnt to have been keen to have Ramaiah — a permanent resident of Saket Housing, Hyderabad — contest for his party. The YSR Congress chief reportedly offered the officer a ticket from Andhra Pradesh, but was learnt to have allowed himself to be persuaded by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, with whom he met privately for an hour during a visit to Patna in December.
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Jagan is learnt to have then offered a YSRCP ticket to Ramaiah’s son K S Shivkant, an MBA based in Hyderabad. Jagan’s Patna visit was officially meant to gather support against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, but is believed to have been really used to explore the possibility of a pre- or post-election understanding with Nitish.
Ramaiah told The Indian Express: “It is true that I have applied for VRS. Though I have not received any official communication regarding its acceptance, I have learnt that it has been accepted.” Sources said the officer might leave office on March 31, four months ahead of his scheduled date of retirement.
Asked about his political ambitions, Ramaiah said, “This is a democratic country, and I am free to choose my profession after my retirement. I cannot reveal which party I will join, but I am sure I will win from any seat that I contest from, irrespective of who my opponent is.”
Asked if the chief minister had offered him the Sasaram ticket, Ramaiah said, “It is not right to divulge such details at this stage. But I am keen on contesting from Sasaram.”
Officially, the JD(U) declined to confirm the “offer”. The party’s national spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “It is too early to discuss candidate selection. I have no idea about Ramaiah’s claims about entering politics with our party.”
Ramaiah, who has a Master’s degree in political science and a PhD, and who has earlier held the key position of Patna divisional commissioner, also confirmed Jagan’s offer to him and, subsequently, to his son, Shivkant.
But he added that his son remained “undecided”. “My son has some health problems and is undecided on contesting polls,” Ramaiah said.
The officer said he was “not overawed” by the possibility of facing off with the Lok Sabha Speaker in Sasaram, and would concentrate on his strengths. The BJP nominee for the high profile seat is likely to be JD(U) MLA Chhedi Paswan, a former Janata Dal MP from Sasaram, who is widely expected to change parties soon. The BJP’s Muni Lal lost to Meira Kumar in 2009.