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Rajya Sabha vacancies bounty for Dal

Patna, May 24: All eyes are on Biharís three Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in the wake of its incumbents making it to the Lok Sabha as the state settles down with chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi winning the vote of confidence in the Assembly on Friday.

Rajya Sabha MPs Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ram Kripal Yadav (both BJP) won the Hajipur, Saran and Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seats, causing vacancies in the House of Elders.

Neither the BJP, the main Opposition party with 87 members in the Assembly, nor the LJP is in a position to retain their seats in the Upper House. Given the technicality involved in the bypoll to the Rajya Sabha seats, the Election Commission will issue separate notifications against what is described as the three casual vacancies enabling the JD(U) with 117 MLAs to bag all the three seats.

Sources said for winning a Rajya Sabha seat, the total number of seats in an Assembly is divided by the number of vacancy, which has to be considered as one in this case, and one added to the result.

ďThe separate notifications, which are issued in such circumstances, will obviously lead the party with majority in the House to bag all the three seats,Ē said an Assembly secretariat official.

Thus, the focus is once again on Nitish Kumar, who despite losing the electoral gamble to his arch-rival, Narendra Modi, and also his chief ministerial position to his cabinet colleague, Jitan Manjhi, holds the key to the entry of the three Rajya Sabha members from Bihar. Arguably, Nitish continues to be the supreme leader of his party and as such he is supposed a key role in the partyís decision-making.

Sources said the Election Commission was likely to begin the process of the bypolls to the Rajya Sabha after the Upper Houseís secretariat officially informed it about the vacancies. Paswan, Rudy and Ram Kripal were scheduled to complete their terms on July 7, 2016, along with the JD(U)ís Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and K.C. Tyagi.

Now, three members elected to the Rajya Sabha against the casual vacancies will get only over two years of tenure in the Upper House.

They will have to face usual biennial elections again with Ram Chandra Prasad Singh and Tyagi if their party concerned decides to retain them as its candidate. Speculations are doing the rounds that Nitish, spared of the governmentís responsibility and gearing up to lead the party in the run-up to the next Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, might prefer to go to the Rajya Sabha himself. Besides, he might also prefer JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav who lost his Madhepura seat to RJDís Pappu Yadav for the Upper House. There are also speculations doing the rounds that Nitish might prefer Lalu Prasadís wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi as the third candidate for the Rajya Sabha in lieu of Laluís RJD unilaterally supporting the Manjhi-led JD(U) government.

But given the manner of Nitishís functioning, it is hard to hazard a guess. A master in the art of springing surprises, Nitish has many a time dropped pigeons from his hat. For instance, few had expected Nitish to replace N.K. Singh, Shivanand Tiwary and Sabir Ali with Harivansh (journalist), Ram Nath Thakur and Kahkashan Parveen in the Rajya Sabha at the biennial election that took place ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Similarly, till 3pm on May 19, even Jitan Manjhi was not aware that Nitish would saddle him (Jitan) in his shoes.

Bihar has a quota of 16 MPs in the Rajya Sabha of which the JD(U) has nine. The casual vacancies have, apparently, enabled the stateís ruling party to take its tally to 12 in the House of Elders.