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Fresh start for turncoats in poll season
Hoppers raise hope for better pie

Patna, March 18: Turncoats never had it so good in the state.

At least 15 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats have candidates who switched their loyalty bagging ticket from the parties they had opposed tooth and nail. “Poll seasons have traditionally witnessed changing affiliations here and there. But this March is almost unprecedented with political leaders compromising their party’s as well as personal principles simply to become an MP,” Shakeel, a senior CPI leader, said.

Shakeel, apparently, has an indifferent take on the situation for his party in particular, or the Left in general, has not suffered much on this front. But the political observers were virtually stunned to see the JD(U) and the BJP — friends-turned-foes — getting into competition to poach into Lalu Prasad’s RJD they had been reviling all along besides plundering each other.

In the process, both the JD(U) and the BJP have lapped candidates who had fiercely opposed them. For instance, Ram Kripal Yadav, still an RJD MP in the Rajya Sabha, contesting the Pataliputra seat on the BJP ticket. Ram Kripal was virtually an “alter ego” of Lalu. He, for all practical purposes, epitomised an anti-thesis to the Sangh Parivar throughout his career with his former boss (Lalu).

But Ram Kripal became the BJP candidate after Lalu spurned him preferring his daughter Misa Bharati as the RJD nominee on the Pataliputra seat. “The BJP has made one of its bitterest critics as its candidate on the prestigious seat. And Ram Kripal has demitted what he stood for all along his political career just to become an MP,” said a senior BJP leader, wishing anonymity, opposed to Ram Kripal’s inclusion in the party.

Incidentally, both the JD(U) and the BJP vied with each other in getting hold of the RJD leaders whom Lalu had not found worth contesting on his party ticket and preferred others. If the BJP lapped up Ram Kripal, the JD(U) lost no time in getting RJD MLC Ghulam Ghaus, Akhtarul Imam, who has resigned as the RJD MLA, and Abu Kaiser, who Lalu had denied a ticket, in fielding them.

Ghaus will now contest the Madhubani seat as the JD(U) nominee after Lalu preferred Abdul Bari Siddiqui to field on the seat. Similarly, the JD(U) has picked up Kaiser, known for carrying colourful lanterns (RJD’s symbol) at all party events, on the Bhagalpur seat. Lalu preferred Bulo Mandal on the seat, driving Kaiser in the JD(U)’s lap.

Similarly, Akhtarul, who had created turmoil in the Assembly over the Nitish Kumar government’s reported introduction of Suryanamashkar (sun salutation) in the school curriculum, has been fielded by the JD(U) in Kishanganj. Lalu, in no way, could have obliged him for the seat had fallen in the share of Congress which already has Israrul Haq as its sitting MP there.

Nitish’s party also picked a BJP MLA, known as a hardliner in the Sangh Parivar, to contest the East Champaran seat. The party has fielded Awanish Kumar Singh, who resigned as the BJP MLA from Chiraiya to contest East Champaran against the saffron incumbent, Radhamohan Singh.

“Awanish has out and out an anti-minority image. The minorities will feel let down at the JD(U) fielding him,” said a JD(U) leader, who has been denied the party ticket.

Santosh Kushwaha, a BJP MLA from Baisi, crossed over to the JD(U) in the eleventh hour to become contest from Purnea against the BJP’s Udai Singh. Santosh was the right hand of Udai in the 2009 elections. The BJP avenged Awanish’s departure to the JD(U) by getting hold of the JD(U)’s two sitting MPs. It has fielded Sushil Singh, the JD(U)’s sitting MP as the BJP nominee on the Aurangabad seat and Ajay Nishad, son of Jainarayan Nishad, who as JD(U) MP had got performed a havan at his New Delhi-based official home to propitiate gods in Modi’s favour.

In a nutshell, Lalu’s RJD has effectively worked as a “stock” for his rivals — mainly the JD(U) and to some extent the BJP — to compensate for the scarcity of the candidates in their ranks. But Lalu too was not far behind in the poaching game. He picked up Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha, a Koiri leader from the JD(U), at the eleventh hour to field him on the crucial Ara seat in central Bihar.

Besides, Lalu too has got a sitting JD(U) MP, Mangani Lal Mandal, contesting on the RJD ticket from Mithila region’s Jhanjharpur seat.