Former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is leant to have spoken to an emissary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to “strike an alliance” with the Congress. The JD(U) has reportedly made the first move by offering nomination of one of the three vacant Rajya Sabha seats from the state to former Union minister and senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad.
The JD(U) think-thank believed that the “time of anti-Congressism was over” with overwhelming mandate for the NDA in recent Lok Sabha elections. The party also believed that the Congress, which got over eight per cent votes in last Lok Sabha elections in alliance with RJD, would add to the JD(U) strength in the 2015 Assembly polls.
The JD(U) and Congress votes in this election match 24 per cent it had got in 2009 Lok Sabha election in alliance with BJP.
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Although there are about half a dozen probables for the three Rajya Sabha seats vacated by Ram Vilas Paswan, Ram Kripal Yadav and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, who lost the Madhepura Lok Sabha seat to RJD’s Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, is the obvious first choice.
JD(U) top brass is most likely to offer one seat to Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad in its bid to “wean away” Congress from RJD. Although RJD chief Lalu Prasad has said that the RJD-Congress alliance was in tact, most Congress leaders wanted to snap ties with Lalu and go alone or with Nitish in next Assembly polls.
The Congress, with its four legislators, has already been extending support to Jeetan Ram Manjhi government. In fact, Congress support continued from the time Nitish severed ties with BJP in 2013.
Sources said Nitish, in his talks with emissary of AICC president Sonia Gandhi, discussed broad framework of “secular alliance” leading to the 2015 polls that would decide if Nitish could bounce back after the recent Lok Sabha drubbing. It is not just JD(U) winning only two seats as against 20 in 2009 polls, the party is greatly concerned with lead only in 17 of the 243 Assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
A JD(U) source said although Congress might not formally announce its alliance with JD(U) immediately, it could join Manjhi government, after a few months. Chief Minister Manjhi has still kept six positions vacant in his cabinet despite having strength of 30 ministers including the CM.
As elections to all three vacant Rajya Sabha seats are held separately, it would go to single largest party JD(U). Although a section of disgruntled JD(U) leaders have been floating idea of fielding the fourth candidate with BJP support, it looks unlikely as those going against party whip would lose their membership. BJP, for its part, has not opened its card and had been keenly watching infighting within JD(U) getting intensified post cabinet expansion last week.
The third Rajya Sabha seat could either go to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh or prominent Kushwaha leader Shakuni Choudhary. The only hitch in choosing Shakuni is party already obliging him with making his son Samrat a minister. Most JD(U) leaders are against “too much pampering of rebels at expense of committed party workers”. Cultural advisor to CM Pawan Kumar Verma is also in the race of Rajya Sabha nomination.
JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav would announce names of three Rajya Sabha candidates on Sunday.