Patna, June 10: Allegations of bribery and treachery reverberated across the JDU today as the party fought to quell dissidence that has shaken up the leadership.
Loyalists of former chief minister Nitish Kumar accused the dissident group of trying to buy votes by luring MLAs with cash — whispers in political corridors suggested offers ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
The dissidents yesterday fielded candidates against the two official nominees of the JDU in the Rajya Sabha bypoll — Pawan Varma and Ghulam Rasool Baliabi — while they decided to spare Sharad Yadav, the party’s national president. To win, a candidate has to get a minimum of 118 votes of legislators. The JDU has 117 members now.
Faced with one of the biggest crises of his political career, Nitish flew off to New Delhi yesterday evening. No one in the party was quite sure why he went to Delhi, with some conjecturing that he might be holding talks with RJD chief Lalu Prasad (who is also in the national capital) on how to defuse the crisis. However, a senior JDU leader dismissed the suggestion. “If the two had to talk, they could do so by phone,” he said.
Nitish loyalists held a meeting at the Patna residence of MLA Manjit Singh today. “We want to alert the party MLAs against the dissidents. Our MLAs are being lured with cash offers and even posts, in case an alternative government is formed by a breakaway group. We have asked the MLAs to note down the phone numbers from where they are getting calls. We will alert all our men against such calls,” Manjit told The Telegraph.
Around 25 MLAs and ministers attended the meeting, among them Shyam Rajak, Nitish Mishra, Bima Bharati, Jai Kumar Singh and Ranju Geeta.
However, the dissidents ridiculed Manjit’s claim. “We are fighting a political battle. No money power is being used. Our supporters are being threatened with false police cases,” said dissident MLA Gyanendra Kumar Gyanu, insisting that they had the backing of over 50 JDU legislators.
Political circles are stunned by the extent of the dissidence. “The only previous occasion I can recall is when Bhagwat Jha Azad was chief minister in the 1990s and a large number of Congress MLAs sat wearing Gandhi caps inside the Assembly demanding Azad’s removal,” recalled RJD state president Ram Chandra Purbey.
However, the RJD itself made a U-turn today. From its stand on Monday that it would not issue a whip to its MLAs, it now says that that all options are open. “The final decision will be taken by our chief (Lalu Prasad),” Purbey said.