Patna, March 24: Veteran BJP leader Lalmuni Chaubey today spurned the party’s sops to placate him, challenged Narendra Modi and announced he would contest as an Independent from Buxar against Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
“I have turned down Rajnath Singh’s offer to give me an honourable position,” said Lalmuni. Sources said the BJP tried to win over Lalmuni with the promise of some honourable position (like that of governor) if the BJP came to power at the Centre.
Speaking to reporters at his single-storey house in Kautilya Nagar, Lalmuni said: “I treat Rajnath as the president of a duplicate BJP. The original BJP that A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and I represented is being ignored by new leaders.”
He announced he would quit the BJP, as it was not fit for him and other senior leaders who were not being given respect. He even attacked BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Giving an open challenge to the BJP and Modi, Lalmuni said: “Modi should first contest and win Buxar, then Varanasi and then go to Delhi.” He announced he would not only campaign against BJP candidates in the Sahabad region but also against Modi. If required, he would campaign against Modi in Varanasi and Vadodara, he said.
On Sunday, Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan and senior RSS leaders met Lalmuni. Sources said the BJP leaders tried to placate him with the promise of an honourable post, but Lalmuni claimed he had never compromised with his ethics and morale. The BJP’s Brahmin face from Sahabad — dominated by Rajput descendents of Kuer Singh and traditional Kanyakubja and Saryupareen Brahmins — said: “During the NDA government, Vajpayee had offered me a ministerial post to save the coalition but I didn’t take it.”
Lalmuni minced no words to “expose” his detractors in the party. He claimed the central committee was deciding everything, the state leadership had no role in finalising candidature. Leader of opposition in the state Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav said the party had decided to field Ashwini Kumar Choubey from Buxar and there would be no change. However, an optimistic Yadav said: “Lalmuniji is a senior leader and we hope he would change his decision and not contest against a BJP candidate.”
Sources said if Lalmuni contests against Ashwini he would cut into BJP votes, especially the sizeable Brahmin vote.
Known for his proximity to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, Lalmuni entered the Bihar Assembly in 1973 on a Jan Sangh ticket and was health minister in Karpoori Thakur’s government in 1977.
He registered his first victory from Buxar in 1996 and represented it consecutively till 2009 when he lost to the RJD’s Jagadanand Singh by just over 2,000 votes. He has represented Buxar Assembly segment for four terms but was never with the RSS.