When six Rajya Sabha seats from Bihar go to polls in April, the JD(U) and the BJP are theoretically assured of retaining three of these while the RJD has the numbers to wrest two from the NDA. For the sixth seat, the contest is open.
Four JD(U) MPs — Bashistha Narayan Singh, Anil Kumar Sahni and Mahendra Prasad aka King Mahendra — and BJP Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Dharmendra Pradhan complete their terms on April 2. The sixth seat was represented by JD(U) rebel Ali Anwar, since disqualified.
Going by current strengths in the 243-member Assembly, the RJD with 79 MLAs and the JD(U) with 71 have enough to win two seats each, while the BJP’s 53 too is above the 35 needed for one Rajya Sabha seat. The votes to spare, the Congress votes (not enough for one seat) and the possibility of cross-voting can all come into play for the sixth seat.
Prasad is expected to get the BJP’s assured seat with Pradhan possibly accommodated elsewhere. For one of the RJD seats, former CM Rabri Devi looks a certainty. For the second, RJD names doing the rounds include former MPs Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Jagdanand Singh, Manganilal Mandal and Shivanand Tewary as well as party national spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha. “The chance of a surprise candidate for the second RJD seat cannot be ruled out,” said an RJD source. What cannot be ruled either, according to the source, is the possibility of a Muslim candidate such as M A A Fatmi.
Arguments have also been made, for and against, the possibility of the RJD fielding JD(U) rebel Sharad Yadav. He met Lalu Prasad in jail recently but ruled out being in contention of Rajya Sabha.
“Fielding Sharad Yadav can be possible only if he joins the RJD, something that looks unlikely. Even if Sharad Yadav is considered, it would mean two Yadav candidates from the party which would upset social calculations. One OBC and one upper caste look the most likely combination,” said the RJD source.
The JD(U) is expected to field national spokesperson K C Tyagi in one seat. The second seat has many contenders. “Given the growing proximity between former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi and Congress rebel Ashok Kumar Choudhary, either can be the candidate for the second JD(U) seat,” said a JD(U) source. “For the bypoll that will be held on account of the disqualification of Sharad Yadav, the JD(U) can either renominate one of its retiring MPs or can choose a fresh name to get its social combination right.”
The party already has an EBC in Rajya Sabha, Ram Nath Thakur, as also a Muslim face, Kehkashan Parbeen.
In the NDA calculation, if and when it elects a BJP and two JD(U) MPs, the votes of 24 MLAs will be left over, including those of RLSP, HAM(S) and LJP.
The Congress has 27 MLAs, just eight short for a candidate. This gap can theoretically be bridged with the RJD’s nine spare voters but the party is fighting dissent within.
“There are apprehensions of dissension but NDA may not succeed. Either Meira Kumar and Nikhil Kumar stands a very good chance of making it to the sixth seat,” said a Congress leader. He added, however, that any leader acceptable to both the RJD and the Congress would be fielded.