| Mangani Lal Mandal. Telegraph picture |
The ruling JD(U) MP from Jhanjharpur, Mangani Lal Mandal, is all set to cross over to Lalu Prasad’s RJD in a development described as a “jolt” to chief minister Nitish Kumar in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
Sources revealed that Mandal would officially leave the JD(U) on Wednesday. Mandal confirmed that he would convene a news conference tomorrow, but refused to divulge its subject.
Mandal belongs to the Extremely Backward Classes (EBC), believed to be the newly carved out votebank of Nitish. His desertion could have an impact on the JD(U)’s EBC votebank.
If Mandal quits the JD(U), he would be the third MP and fourth lawmaker to demit the state’s ruling party in the recent past. The Muzaffarpur and Gopalganj MPs, Vidya Sagar Nishad and Purnamasi Ram, earlier left the party. While Nishad is likely to join the BJP, Ram is set to go to the RJD.
Recently, the JD(U) MLA from Chenari, Chhedi Paswan, too left the JD(U) and is about to join the BJP. Chhedi is believed to be all set to contest the high-profile Sasaram Lok Sabha seat (SC), represented by the Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar.
According to a source close to Mandal, the MP, in all likelihood, would announce his decision to quit the JD(U) tomorrow (Wednesday). Later, he would join the RJD, apparently, on the condition to contest his Mithila region’s seat on the RJD ticket.
Mandal met the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, at Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi on Sunday. A special CBI court sent Lalu to jail in a fodder scam case earlier this month.
Coming from the socialists’ crop, Mandal has been a powerful and influential EBC leader throughout his long legislative career. He was a member of the Assembly uninterrupted from 1985 to 2004, enjoying cabinet berth in the Lalu-Rabri regime. He shifted to the JD(U), formed by Sharad Yadav, in 1997. Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party merged with it in 2003.
Mandal became a Rajya Sabha member in 2004 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhanjharpur in 2009.
Despite his long career as a lawmaker, Mandal has been a controversial character. Patna High Court had declared his election from Jhanjharpur “void” on the basis of a writ petition alleging that the MP had concealed the information about his first wife in his affidavit to the Election Commission.
The Supreme Court, however, overruled the ruling of the high court, upholding Mandal’s election last year. He was one of the three MPs suspended by the JD(U) for anti-party activities during the 2010 Assembly elections. The party revoked the suspension on the former state party chief, Lallan Singh, after the latter furnished “suitable reply” to the showcause notice on him. But Mandal did not deem it fit to reply to the JD(U)’s notice.
The exodus of the JD(U) MPs, particularly to the RJD, might be disturbing to Nitish because the JD(U) strategists had, apparently, calculated that Lalu’s sentencing in the fodder scam case would pose a threat on the very existence of the RJD.
The grapevine had it that once Lalu was behind the bars, his party — already enervated in the last Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections — would split, providing the JD(U) with the chance to swell its ranks. Gossips were doing the rounds that Nitish was waiting for the RJD boss to be convicted ahead of his much-awaited cabinet expansion.
“But it is happening other way round. While the JD(U) is facing exodus, the RJD leaders have been showing rock solid unity, particularly after the designated CBI court sentencing Lalu for five-year term,” said a political observer, adding that the sitting MPs from the opposition camp evincing interest in the RJD proves that Lalu still had his support base. He has the hope of poll contestants still alive in him, he added.
No MP or MLA either from the BJP or the RJD has crossed over to the JD(U) after the latter dumping the saffron party on June 16 or Lalu going behind the bars on September 30.