While the Congress, which had been demanding either Darbhanga or Madhubani seat for its kitty of nine out of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats as part of the opposition alliance, may not get either, it is set to get Patna Sahib constituency, where it is likely to field rebel BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha.
Sinha, a two-term MP from Patna Sahib, is set to join the Congress on March 28, days after the BJP dropped him and fielded Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad from the seat.
On Tuesday, state Congress’s campaign committee chairman Akhilesh Prasad Singh told the media, “Shatrughan Sinha will join the Congress in New Delhi on March 28 at 11.30 am…. He will be our candidate from Patna Sahib.” Follow more election news here.
Sinha, who has been openly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, on Tuesday praised Rahul Gandhi — in a tweet, he called Rahul the “master of situation”, and the Congress chief’s proposed minimum income guarantee scheme a “masterstroke”.
The Congress and its senior alliance partner in Bihar, Lalu Prasad’s RJD, are meanwhile close to finalising six remaining seats for the Congress. Sources in RJD said these could be Sasaram, Samastipur, Supaul, Patna Sahib, Munger and Valmiki Nagar or West Champaran.
A Congress leader said, “We have given the choice for one seat from among Darbhanga, Madhubani or Valmiki Nagar. The RJD wants to keep both Madhubani and Darbhanga.”
The RJD is said to be keen on fielding its Muslim leaders, Abdul Bari Siddiqui and M A A Fatmi, from these two seats.
Mukesh Sahni, an Extremely Backward Class leader who heads the Vikasshil Insaan Party (VIP), is likely to get Khagaria, Muzaffarpur or Valmiki Nagar or West Champaran. Since the Congress and VIP are both keen on Valmiki Nagar, the alliance is taking time on announcing the other seats, party leaders said. The alliance has already declared candidates for nine seats for the first and second phases of polling.
Keen contest on the cards
With Shatrughan Sinha set to join the Congress, and likely to be fielded from Patna Sahib, the constituency will see an absorbing contest between the sitting MP and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. Even though Patna Sahib has traditionally voted for the BJP, two-time MP Sinha is likely to offer a tough fight. The constituency’s rural areas of Fatuha and Bakhtiyarpur have sizeable RJD and Congress support, and Sinha, who otherwise is not rated highly for his performance as MP, still has clout and threatens to divide his fellow upper caste Kayastha votes.
The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, which has already announced candidate for Jamui, could get Karakat, Ujiyarpur, Gopalganj and East Champaran for its four remaining seats. The Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), another alliance partner, is contesting from Gaya, Aurangabad and Nalanda.
Meanwhile, LJP, part of the BJP-led NDA, named sitting MP Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaisar from Khagaria. The LJP was said to have been caught between an upper caste candidate and Qaiser. Since it has already fielded two upper caste candidates in Chandan Kumar (from Nawada) and Veena Devi (Vaishali), the party decided in favour of Qaiser. The other Muslim candidate for the NDA in Bihar is Mehmood Ashraf of the JD(U).