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Shatrughan backs biz tycoon in RS race

Patna, March 12: The BJP MP from Patna Sahib, Shatrughan Sinha, backed party veteran and owner of Rs 25,000-crore business empire R.K. Sinha for a Rajya Sabha seat, virtually queering the pitch of the party spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Ravi Shankar, who recently coordinated the party patriarch L.K. Advani’s yatra against corruption, is keen on getting a third term in the Upper House. But Shotgun and his supporters have put their weight behind R.K. Sinha, the chairman of the top security agency of India — SIS.

“He (R.K. Sinha) is the most deserving candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Bihar. He has served the party from tan, man, dhan (body, mind and wealth) without getting any reward so far. He must be rewarded this time,” Shatrughan said, advocating the case of R.K. Sinha, associated with the party for over four decades.

Shatrughan’s unalloyed support might have come as music to R.K. Sinha’s ears but the BJP has several claimants clamouring for Rajya Sabha seats. What has made the BJP’s task doubly difficult is chief minister Nitish Kumar’s “efforts” to get four seats in the JD(U)’s quota, leaving only two for the BJP.

There is vacancy for six seats from Bihar. The polling is scheduled on March 30.

Sources in the BJP revealed that besides R.K. Sinha and Ravi Shankar, the party’s Bihar affairs co-in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan and senior leader S.S. Ahluwalia were “strong contenders” from Bihar in the BJP quota. “If the BJP high command yields to Nitish’s demand of four seats, the party would be in big trouble because it would find it hard to accommodate its deserving nominees,” said a senior BJP leader.

The JD(U) sources revealed that Nitish was trying to persuade the BJP high command to spare the fourth seat for his party in lieu of a few more seats in the Bihar Legislative Council.

The council has 11 vacancies. The polling for them will take place on March 30.

The BJP spokesperson, Sanjay Mayukh, said the party’s state election committee had suggested its preferences to the central election committee for Rajya Sabha seats. “A meeting of central leaders will take place in a couple of days to finally decide on the party’s candidates,” he said, adding that the BJP high command would take a final call on the issue.

The BJP has 91 MLAs against the JD(U)’s 118. Given the numerical matrix, the NDA is likely to pocket all the six Rajya Sabha seats.

Playing a “big brother” on the basis of more MLAs in his kitty, Nitish in all likelihood would press hard for more Rajya Sabha seats.

He has succeeded in extracting more mileage from the BJP in the past. For instance, he had pocketed the Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat in 2009 though the BJP had been contesting it ever since the JD(U)-BJP alliance in 1996. Similarly, he had bagged the Digha Assembly seat from the BJP in the 2010 Assembly elections.

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