Patna, June 9: The dissidence-wracked JDU today sailed into another crisis with three Independent candidates filing their nominations to challenge the official party nominees for two of the three Rajya Sabha seats that have fallen vacant.
Sharad Yadav, the JDU national president who lost the Lok Sabha elections from Madhepura, looks set to win a berth unopposed.
But the party will have to weather a storm over the two other seats for which it has nominated former diplomat Pawan Varma and veteran politician Ghulam Rasool Baliabi, candidates handpicked by Nitish Kumar.
Varma, who is contesting the seat vacated by the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy (who won from Saran Lok Sabha constituency), is being challenged by rebel JDU candidate Anil Kumar Sharma and Legislative Council member Dilip Jaiswal, who contested the general elections from Kishanganj on a BJP ticket.
Both Sharma and Jaiswal filed their nominations as Independent candidates.
The rebel group in the JDU has also decided to queer the pitch for Baliabi, who is the official party nominee for the Rajya Sabha berth vacated by Ram Kripal Yadav, now the Pataliputra MP from the BJP. JDU renegade Sabir Ali has decided to challenge Baliabi, also as an Independent.
Unless the rebel candidates withdraw their nominations by June 12, elections to these two seats will be held on June 19.
The dramatic developments that unfolded through the day today — the last date for filing of nominations — have come as a blow to the embattled former chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is facing one of the deepest crises of his political career with voices of dissidence gaining strength by the day.
The JDU has 117 members in the Assembly whose current strength is 232. For a candidate to win a Rajya Sabha berth, 51 per cent of the total strength of the House, or the votes of a minimum of 118 members, is necessary.
JDU sources said Nitish would find it extremely untenable to sustain the Jitan Ram Majhi government if the official JDU candidates lose. A defeat would mean that the rebels, aided by the BJP, had outnumbered the ruling establishment.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has further complicated the problems for Nitish.
“Our party is not going to support any candidate and we will not issue a whip. Our MLAs are free to vote according to their conscience,” Lalu said.
The BJP’s most powerful face, Sushil Kumar Modi, sought to sound politically correct.
“The BJP is nowhere in the game. We will inquire into how our party leader, Dilip Jaiswal, has joined the fray and how the party MLAs have proposed his name,” he said. JDU sources scoffed at the statement, saying neither Jaiswal nor the BJP proposers could have acted on their own.
In the morning, the JDU camp was confident they had tamed the rebellion.
“There may be angry MLAs in our party. But very few will go to the extent of voting against our official candidates,” parliamentary affairs minister Srawan Kumar, tasked with mobilizing MLAs, told The Telegraph.
Around 2.10pm, the loyalists were in for a shock as around 15 rebel JDU MLAs and one Independent member trooped into the office of the secretary along with Sabir Ali and Anil Sharma, the vanquished JDU candidate in Jehanabad.
The rebel band included Gyanendra Kumar Gyanu, Dawood Ali, Renu Devi, Raju Kumar Singh, Ravindar Rai, Neeraj Bablu, Ajit Kumar, Anil Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Sujata Devi, Amla Devi, Poonam Devi, Gajanand Shahi, Madan Sahni, Dinesh Kushwaha and Independent MLA Pawan Jaiswal. Ten minutes later, BJP MLAs came with their candidate Dilip Jaiswal.
“Just wait for June 19 when the polling will take place. We have the support of more than 50 JDU MLAs. This is a fight between the asli (real) JDU and the nakli (false) JDU. We are the asli JDU and all our candidates will win,” Gyanu said.
The brazen show of strength by the rebel camp left the Nitish loyalists shell-shocked. “We did not expect this many MLAs to come out openly against the party leadership,” admitted a JDU minister.