The Telegraph
Thursday , April 11 , 2013
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Hat-trick key to crucial ties

Sharad Yadav is all set to score a hat-trick as the JD(U) president and lead his party, ruling Bihar in alliance with the BJP, through the crucial 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The MP from Madhepura, selected as an “outstanding parliamentarian” in 2012, was the sole nominee from the JD(U) to file his papers for the party chief’s election scheduled at the end of its national executive meeting on April 14.

Sharad’s election to the JD(U)’s top post is a forgone conclusion for the party’s most powerful face and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is among the battery of senior party leaders proposing his name. Sharad turned up at the New Delhi-based JD(U) office with several senior leaders, including Bihar JD(U) chief Basishtha Narayan Singh and the party’s secretary general K.C. Tyagi on Wednesday, to submit his nomination papers.

Nitish had declared on Monday that Sharad would retain his position as the party president. The JD(U) on April 5, sources said, amended its constitution — earlier stipulating only two terms to the incumbent — to enable the veteran leader who had made the debut in the Lok Sabha from Jabalpur in 1974, to become its president.

That the party has amended its constitution to give third term to him outlines the political importance of Sharad both for Nitish and also his party reported to be on “hostile terms” with its 17-year-old ally, the BJP, on the issue of projecting the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 polls.

Sharad besides being the parliamentary party leader of the JD(U) is also the National Democratic Alliance convener. “It is an open secret now that the JD(U)-BJP alliance is undergoing turbulent phase ahead of the 2014 elections. Sharad is armed with the stature and political acumen to spearhead the party through its trying phase,” a senior JD(U) leader confided, adding: “Sharad’s views are respected in the BJP and even in the opposition parties.”

Sharad is also the key to the JD(U)’s success in Bihar too. He belongs to the numerically preponderant and Bihar’s single largest Yadav caste that is understood to constitute the “nucleus” of Yadav strongman Lalu Prasad’s political strength.

“We don’t expect the Yadavs to desert their leader (Lalu) and shift their loyalties to the JD(U). But the presence of a towering Yadav leader (Sharad) at the helm of the JD(U)’s affairs, enables Nitish to send the message to the electorate that he has not discriminated against the caste that is believed to be loyal to the RJD,” said a JD(U) strategist.

He added: “Sharad as JD(U) chief neutralises the possibility of the hostility between the two powerful OBCs — Yadavs and Kurmis (Nitish’s caste) — in the state’s caste cauldron.”

Despite being the JD(U) leader, he is known for holding his independent views on certain issues. For instance, he was opposed to Nitish’s stand on the women’s reservation bill and sided with Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav championing the cause of reservation for the backward class women in the bill.

“Still, Nitish can ill-afford to ignore Sharad’s political utility at the time when the party’s alliance with the BJP is on the edge. The party has to battle it out with Lalu’s RJD, which despite performing poorly in the last elections, continued to be a formidable force at the social level,” said a senior JD(U) leader.

CM draws flak

With Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi emerging as a key player in the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan today asked Nitish Kumar to part with the party as he had promised earlier. “Modi may be declared its prime ministerial candidate... What else is Nitish waiting for to sever ties with BJP as he had promised earlier?” he said.