Patna, Feb. 2: Dissident JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari today touched the raw nerves of chief minister Nitish Kumar by recalling the denial of Banka Lok Sabha seat ticket to late Digvijay Singh — one of the tallest leaders of the party — in 2009.
“Digvijay was among the tallest leaders of our party. He was second to none. How come he was denied ticket? However, he was a brave man and had the resources. He made the dictatorship of Nitish an issue, fought the elections and won. Unfortunately, he died soon after. Some say he died of stress,” Shivanand said in a fresh letter to the state JD(U) president, Bashishtha Narayan Singh.
Digvijay was among the founder members of the Samata Party and very close to former Union minister George Fernandes. He used to contest from the Banka parliamentary seat. As the relationship between Fernandes and Nitish strained, leaders loyal to the chief minister blamed Digvijay for the fissures between the two.
After the JD(U) refused to give ticket to Digvijay in 2009, he contested the Lok Sabha polls as an Independent and won. The theme of his campaign was “Nitish the dictator”, identical to the tenor of Shivanand’s second letter to Bashishtha.
The party tried to make up by supporting Digvijay’s widow Putul Devi in the bypoll. But she recently joined the BJP, making it clear that she was in no mood to forgive Nitish for the alleged shabby treatment meted out to her late husband.
Shivanand had dashed off a terse letter to Bashishtha earlier, lashing out at Nitish for denying the second Rajya Sabha term to him and the other two sitting MPs — N.K. Singh and Sabir Ali. The JD(U) replaced them with three new faces — Ramanath Thakur, the son of former chief minister Karpoori Thakur, Kahkashan Parveen and Harivansh, a senior journalist. The three dropped Rajya Sabha MPs, whose tenure would end on April 4, have been asked to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Buxar, Banka and Sheohar. Shivanand and Singh have turned down the request.
The second letter of Shivanand also questioned the motive of Nitish to field Singh, a former bureaucrat, against Putul. “Singh has never contested elections and both he and Putul are Rajputs. In case Putul loses in the Lok Sabha polls because of Singh, he will have to face a lot of criticism within his own caste. Should this award be given to a man who has worked effortlessly to brush up the image of Nitish?” asked the JD(U) MP.
Responding to Bashishtha’s remark that it was he and not Nitish who suggested Shivanand to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Buxar, the outgoing Rajya Sabha MP said: “Do you expect me to believe this after knowing Nitish for decades?”
He also stated: “Nitish is an arrogant person who believes in the mantra of ‘I’... There is no place in the JD(U) for anyone who does not nod to the chief minister’s views.”
The JD(U) has so far restrained from taking any disciplinary action against Shivanand for his public outbursts.
“But I am not sure how long the party will remain a mute spectator to his public missiles at Nitish. A few others were expelled for minor offences. The party cannot afford his public outbursts when the Lok Sabha polls are staring at us,” said a JD(U) MP.