Prompted by their respective central leaderships that had an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the RJD and Congress ganged up on the JMM on Tuesday, forcing it to withdraw its candidate for the February 7 Rajya Sabha elections to two seats. Only two nominations were filed on Tuesday – the last day for filing applications – which means that for the first time since the state’s formation, candidates are set to be elected unopposed to the Upper House of Parliament.
Prem Chand Gupta of the RJD will be the UPA candidate while outgoing RS member Parimal Nathwani – also Group President of Corporate Affairs at Reliance Industries Limited – will remain an Independent but was supported by the BJP and AJSU this time.
The JMM continued to embarrass itself when it came to Rajya Sabha elections. Savita Mahato, widow of party leader and former deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahato who passed away only on January 22, had been announced as the JMM candidate on Monday. However, the party leadership bowed to RJD-Congress pressure and sent her back to Jamshedpur on Tuesday afternoon.
The JMM seemed to be fighting off an internal rebellion from the Mahtos – the Kurmis of Kolhan, specifically – almost immediately, as three legislators met Shibu Soren to submit their resignation as MLAs. Mathura Prasad Mahto, Vidyut Baran Mahto and Jagarnath Mahto were the face of that rebellion but did not meet the Assembly Speaker. “Savita Mahato was not treated well by the party. We are playing into the politics of other parties by supporting outsiders,” said Jagarnath Mahto, legislator from Giridih district’s Dumri.
JMM’s allies have promised that the RS seat that fell vacant with the resignation of Alchemist group’s K.D. Singh will now be given to Savita Mahato. Singh, who won in 2010 on a JMM ticket, had soon joined the Trinamool Congress. He resigned from his seat after the TMC announced him as one of its candidates from West Bengal this election cycle. “We supported the RJD candidate after the high command asked us to. It is important that the secular forces stay together for the Lok Sabha election,” said Sukhdeo Bhagat, state Congress President. The party had asked its leader Alamgir Alam to be on standby as a candidate till late on Monday night, but decided to support the RJD after its Delhi leadership’s communication.
The RJD, which has all of five seats in the 82-member House, thus bagged its first RS seat from the state. It also rehabilitated former Union Minister Gupta, an outgoing RS member from Bihar – where the party does not have sufficient legislators anymore to ensure a re-election.
It is not yet clear whether the RJD and Congress explicitly threatened to withdraw support to the Hemant Soren government over Gupta’s candidature, but they surely used it as leverage. “We discussed the details of our alliance with the chief minister and impressed on him the need for secular parties to stick together in these times,” said Jharkhand minister and RJD leader Annapurna Devi after RJD and Congress leaders met the CM together.
The day also signified a subtle shift in the power structure within the JMM. Shibu Soren had taken the decision to nominate Savita Mahato, a popular one considering that the party had failed to nominate any active members the last three times elections to the RS were held. However, the RJD and Congress leaders met son Hemant on Tuesday and he announced the party’s decision.
The BJP, whose MP J.P.N. Singh is the outgoing RS member along with Nathwani, decided not to attempt to retain its seat and instead chose to support an Independent. “We did not have sufficient legislators to ensure our candidate wins. The AJSU and us seemed to be intent on supporting Mr. Nathwani. This alliance is not for the Lok Sabha polls; we will contest all 14 seats on our own,” said Raghubar Das, legislator and senior BJP leader.