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Independent boost to BJP

Patna, Jan. 20: Two sitting Independent Lok Sabha members — Putul Kumari Singh and Omprakash Yadav — today formally joined the BJP, giving momentum to the party’s campaign to strengthen its base in the state in the run-up to the general elections.

Putul, the MP from Banka and wife of Digvijay Singh who represented the seat till his death in November 2010, and Siwan MP Omprakash virtually dealt a blow to the JD(U) by joining its estranged ally, the BJP.

Late Digvijay and Omprakash originally hailed from the JD(U) stock. Both contested as rebels in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from their respective seats after they were denied the party ticket and won against the wishes of Nitish Kumar.

Nitish tried to woo Digvijay later. His party supported Putul, contesting the Banka seat in November 2010 after Digvijay died. Nitish tried to win over Omprakash, too, who had won the Siwan seat by defeating the RJD strongman, Md Shahabuddin.

The changing caste equations after the JD(U)-BJP split probably prompted the two MPs to go the BJP way. Observers believe that it would have been an uphill task for Putul to retain the upper caste Rajput-dominated Banka seat in company with the JD(U).

Besides, Banka has the strong presence of the Yadavs — castemen of Lalu Prasad — who are believed to be strongly opposed to Nitish because of his raging rivalry with the RJD boss. The “ground reality” in Banka in the wake of changing scenario probably goaded Putul to join the BJP.

Similarly, Omprakash has his Siwan Lok Sabha seat dominated by over 20 per cent of the Muslims. He had emerged victorious in 2009 on “anti–Shahabuddin” plank. The RJD is all set to field the wife of Shahabuddin — barred from contesting the polls in the wake of his conviction in four cases of kidnapping and murder.

Sources close to Omprakash said the sitting Siwan MP was “aware” that he would not get the support of the minorities who were still “loyal” to Shahabuddin and the RJD. He joined the BJP with the hope of getting overwhelming support of the upper castes and a section of his castemen Yadavs, who were opposed to Nitish but not that “hostile” to the BJP.

The two MPs joined the BJP in the presence of the national party boss, Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi.