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Nitish red-flags RS return for trio

Patna, Jan. 23: Nitish Kumar has stunned three prized Rajya Sabha members from the Janata Dal (United) — N.K. Singh, Shivanand Tiwari and Shabir Ali — by denying them a fresh term and instead offering them tickets to contest the coming Lok Sabha elections.

All three are understood to be against entering the poll fray.

The chief minister — believed to be the “architect” of the dramatic move not to field the trio — preferred not to speak on the decision, which was confirmed by JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav.

“The party is thinking of giving an opportunity to new faces in the Rajya Sabha,” Sharad said. “The party is considering fielding its three Rajya Sabha members in the Lok Sabha polls.”

Sharad held talks with Nitish late tonight to finalise the nominees for the Rajya Sabha.

Singh, Tiwari and Ali are among five Rajya Sabha members from Bihar retiring in April this year. The Election Commission has fixed February 7 as the date for the biennial polls to fill up five vacancies from Bihar in the Upper House. The two other outgoing MPs are C.P. Thakur (BJP) and Premchand Gupta (RJD).

While N.K. Singh, a former bureaucrat who is now seen to be part of Nitish’s advisory group, and Shabir Ali have been offered Banka and Sheohar seats respectively, Tiwari has been given the option of contesting from his home seat of Buxar.

Singh, when contacted by The Telegraph, said: “I have requested for some time to consider the offer (to contest the Lok Sabha polls). I feel that I should have been given at least six months to prepare for contesting a Lok Sabha seat.”

Sources close to Singh said the former IAS officer, who carried out the branding for Nitish rule on the national and global stage and recently published the book, The New Bihar: Rekindling Governance and Development edited by him and Nicholas Stern, was extremely “hurt” at the party not taking him into confidence while denying him a Rajya Sabha ticket. Similarly, Tiwari, a party veteran, is miffed that the party did not think it appropriate to consult him.

Shabir Ali outright refused to contest the Sheohar seat, saying: “The RJD might field Anwarul Haque, a prominent Muslim leader. If I contest against a Muslim candidate it will amount to division in the Muslim votes, handing the seat to the BJP on a platter.”

Sources close to Nitish said the decision not to re-nominate the trio was taken for two broad reasons. First, after the split with the BJP, the JD(U) needed strong candidates to contest the seats which had fallen in the BJP’s share in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections or in which the JD(U) had lost.

Second, the party wants to use the Rajya Sabha seats as a bait for formidable faces in rival outfits. The sources revealed that the JD(U), which is in search of a Muslim face, was “zeroing in” on RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui. Besides, the JD(U) is learnt to have offered a Rajya Sabha berth to Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP as well.

Siddiqui is learnt to be “hurt” after his party boss Lalu Prasad reportedly agreed to spare north Bihar’s Madhubani seat to the Congress, which is likely to field its spokesman Shakeel Ahmad. Siddiqui had finished second there in 2009, losing to the BJP’s Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav by a slim margin of 9,000 votes. Shakeel was a poor third.

The JD(U) is weak in all the seats it has offered to its retiring MPs. The RJD’s Jagadanand Singh had wrested Buxar from the BJP in 2009; the BJP’s Rama Devi had won from Sheohar. The JD(U) had lost Banka decisively to the late Digvijay Singh. After Digvijay’s death, his wife Putul Kumari Singh won the seat as an Independent in the 2010 byelection with the JD(U)’s support. But Putul has since joined the BJP.

Observers believe that N.K. Singh, almost alien to the “rough and tumble” of the Lok Sabha polls, might find the going in Banka extremely tough. Putul will not be a pushover as the BJP nominee. Moreover, the RJD will fancy its chances in Banka, which has Yadavs in large numbers besides having a fair presence of the Muslims.


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