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Tough first step to quell Dal dissidence

The JDU leadership on Sunday suspended Ravindra Rai, the most vocal of the four dissidents, who had collectively attacked former chief minister Nitish Kumar on Friday.

But the leadership was yet to announce the three candidates for the three vacant seats for the Rajya Sabha despite the party’s national president, Sharad Yadav, and Nitish holding closed-door meeting at the latter’s 2-M Strand Road residence. The session between the two was in progress till late on Sunday night.

Earlier, both the senior leaders showed unity against the dissidents with Sharad issuing the suspension order on Ravindra. Sharad’s aide and party general secretary KC Tyagi said: “Nitish has set an example of sacrifice and morality by relinquishing his position as the chief minister. The party will not tolerate those raising fingers at Nitish’s leadership.”

Ravindra, who addressed reporters along with Gyanendra Singh Gyanu, Poonam Devi and Madan Sahni on Friday, had said: “The JDU can exist without Nitish.”

The trio on Sunday stood firmly behind Ravindra. “We are at the point of no return. The JDU leadership (read Nitish) will have to suspend over 50 MLAs for speaking against it,” Gyanu said. Ravindra also said: “Nitish dar gaya (Nitish is terrified). I feel elevated on my suspension for I have spoken in a right manner.”

Despite their bravado, however, the rebels failed to establish that their rank was swelling. None other than the members of “group-4” came out openly in rescue of Ravindra, an MLA from Mahua seat when the axe fell on him.

Ahead of signing on the suspension order against Ravindra, Sharad met most of the senior legislators and ministers, including the four rebel MLAs at the state guesthouse. Sources close to Sharad revealed that in the “leadership’s assessment the dissidents are not as much in number as they are claiming to be”.

A tough action against them might quell the rebellion for the time being, the sources said. At least, 78 MLAs that constitute two-third of the 117-member JDU legislature party are required to split it. “The rebellion is there. But it is still not easy for the rebels to split the party, given the stringent anti-defection laws,” a senior JDU leader said.

Ahead of inviting Sharad at his house in the evening, Nitish too summoned many of the legislators and spoke to them. The sources said the two leaders might arrive at a decision on the three names on Sunday night, asking them to file their nomination papers on Monday, the last date of filing the papers. The elections for the Rajya Sabha seats are scheduled for June 19.

So far, the BJP has officially stayed away from dabbling in the JDU affairs. The ousted JDU leader, Sabir Ali who had “downloaded” the application paper on Saturday too stayed incommunicado to the media on Sunday. “Saheb will communicate on Sunday morning,” the man who picked up Sabir’s phone, said.