The Telegraph
Sunday , July 27 , 2014
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Leaders galore eye CM chair

- BJP focus to contest as formidable force in bypoll & beyond, attacks scholarship decision

Patna, July 26: The BJP suddenly finds many faces springing up as claimants to the chief minister’s post, exposing the lack of coherence and unity it displayed during the Lok Sabha elections against rivals, the JDU, RJD and Congress, who seem to be inching closer towards an alliance for the impending by-elections to 10 Assembly seats.

It all began at the BJP’s state executive meeting last Sunday where Union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh proposed that the party would contest the Assembly polls under the “stewardship” of former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi. Union law minister Ravishankar Prasad seconded it.

Many senior insiders in the saffron party felt that Radhamohan and Ravishankar were “jumping the gun” for the state executive was not the right forum to decide on the leadership issue of the party. The BJP’s parliamentary board, said the insiders, was the appropriate forum to decide on the issue of the leadership.

While Sushil Modi’s “rivals” within the party were unhappy at the manner in which Radhamohan and Ravishankar dropped his name, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Nandkishore Yadav remarked, albeit in a light hearted manner, that he too had started as a tea-seller like Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“My uncle opened a tea shop near Elphinston cinema in 1971. I joined the shop turning it into a very profitable venture,” Nandkishore said. Asked specifically if he wished to become chief minister the way a tea seller Modi has become the Prime Minister, Nandkishoure said with a laugh: “That’s an issue to be decided by the parliamentary board.”

Nandkishore — who takes pride in projecting himself as the Yadav face of the BJP in the state — had traced his tea-seller roots in a light-hearted manner. But the grapevine in the party guessed that Nandkishore had not approved what Radhamohan and Ravishankar had advocated.

A couple of days later, the party’s five-time MLA from Gaya, Prem Kumar, a member of the extremely backward class, came out with his claim more explicitly. “I belong to an EBC caste and have served the party well. I will readily accept the responsibility (as a CM) if the party decides.”

Sources revealed that it was Sushil who “advised” Prem Kumar to throw his hat in the ring for the chief minister’s post to counter Nandkishore who is the leader of Opposition belonging to a dominant caste and relatively “more formidable” rival.

Soon after Prem Kumar staked his claim for the top post, another party veteran and nine-term MLA from Rajgir, Satyadeo Narayan Arya said: “I am the most experienced MLA of the party. I will be extremely happy if the party decides to declare me as the chief ministerial candidate.” Arya belongs to the Mahadalit community.

Senior party strategists still feel that Sushil was “ahead” in the race because of his track record. “When the opportunity came, the party leadership chose Sushil as the deputy CM, the highest post available during the NDA rule in Bihar. After the BJP lost power in the state, the party has made him the parliamentary party leader (leader of BJP in both the Houses),” a senior party ideologue said describing the current claim and counter claim as “deleterious” to the party’s health.

Even as the senior BJP leaders indulged in competition for the chief minister’s candidature, the party’s other allies LJP and RLSP have staked claim on three and two seats, respectively, for the by-election to 10 seats scheduled for August 21.

While the BJP-led NDA looked to be in the quagmire of dissension, the JDU, RJD and Congress headed closure towards a grand alliance against the saffron outfit.

The sources revealed that the RJD, JDU and Congress could share five, three and two seats, respectively, pitting common candidates against the BJP and allies. “The alliance has almost been finalised. It may formally be announced once Nitish Kumar returns on July 30,” said a senior RJD leader. The Congress’s media in-charge, Premchand Mishra too confirmed: “We are heading for a grand secular alliance against the BJP.”