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JMM names RS candidate

Ranchi/New Delhi, Jan. 27: The JMM played the sympathy card to name late Sudhir Mahto’s wife Sabita as its candidate for the February 7 Rajya Sabha polls, even as ally Congress asked Alamgir Alam to file nominations tomorrow in the backdrop of a meeting between Rahul Gandhi and RJD’s Lalu Prasad in New Delhi today.

The BJP will also declare the name of the candidate it would be supporting tomorrow — the last day of filing nominations.

“We urge all political parties to support Sabita Mahto, since her family made great sacrifices for Jharkhand. We will also be talking to different parties to garner support for her,” said JMM’s central committee member Supriyo Bhattacharya, referring to Sabita’s brother-in-law Nirmal Mahto, who was shot dead in Jamshedpur in 1987 and husband Sudhir Mahto, who passed away last week.

JMM’s announcement appears to have ruffled the feathers of RJD, one of the partners in the ruling coalition in Jharkhand, given its determination to field former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta. Lalu even took up the matter with Rahul when the two met for a meeting in the national capital. Rahul is learnt to have not given any word about backing Gupta, who had previously been a member of the Upper house from Bihar.

Sources said chances of Congress agreeing to Lalu’s demands were slim since RJD only has five MLAs in Jharkhand and Congress was keen on fielding Alam.

The RJD legislature party has decided to meet tomorrow to discuss its action plan, which may include the issue of extending further support to the Hemant Soren government.

Congress spokesman Shailesh Sinha said Alam would be filing his nominations tomorrow after which the party will hold talks with JMM, RJD and other secular forces. “The final decision will be taken by the Congress high command. I asked Alamgir Alam to avail the nomination forms,” state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat said.

But neither the Congress nor the JMM can ensure the victory of their candidates on their own. With 11 JVM MLAs and lone CPI-ML (Liberation) member resolving to abstain from voting, at least 24 first preference votes will be needed by the candidates to win, that is if more than two candidates remain in the fray.

So far, seven persons have procured nomination papers, including incumbent Parimal Nathwani, the Reliance man who won the last Rajya Sabha polls as an Independent. If the BJP and Ajsu decide to name a common nominee, the number will shoot up.

According to insiders, Narendra Modi was keen on ensuring Nathwani’s victory. If that happens, 18 BJP and six Ajsu MLAs can easily ensure Nathwani’s victory. “We will soon hold final talks with our alliance partner. The name of the candidate whom we will support will be announced tomorrow,” said BJP state president Ravindra Rai.