CM tiptoes on berth tightrope

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  • Published 25.01.14

Patna, Jan. 24: Nitish Kumar today sought to do a deft balancing act by picking an Extremely Backward Caste (EBC) candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.

The Janata Dal (United) has already decided not to re-nominate its three retiring Upper House members — N.K. Singh, Shivanand Tiwari and Shabir Ali.

Nitish chose an opportune occasion — the birth anniversary celebrations of Karpoori Thakur — to announce that the iconic EBC leader’s son, Ram Nath Thakur — a former state minister — would be fielded by the party in the February 7 biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha.

Also picked to contest are Kahkashan Parveen, chairperson of the state women’s commission, and Harivansh, the chief editor of the Prabhat Khabar group of publications.

By offering a ticket to Thakur, the chief minister is trying to send a message to the EBCs that his party was still with them. Of the retiring members, none was from the EBC.

Nitish elaborated on the work done by Karpoori Thakur and also took a jibe at the BJP, without taking names, for trying to woo the EBCs. The climax came at the end when Nitish concluded his speech with the words, “Speculation is being made about the Rajya Sabha elections. Some people are claiming that the party (read JD-U) has become weak. I have told such people to go and strengthen the party by contesting elections. As far as nominees for the Rajya Sabha are concerned, the names have been finalised out of which people are from the EBC and minority (communities).”

His reference to people claming that the JD(U) had become weak was an obvious reference to Shivanand Tiwari, who, during his speech at a party conclave in Rajgir last year, had declared that the JD(U) was dreaming of winning 40 seats when it did not have 40 candidates.

Packed to capacity, the SK Memorial Hall — the venue of the programme — started buzzing in anticipation as even senior JD (U) leaders appeared unsure about who their candidates would be.

Nitish, however, left it to the party’s national president, Sharad Yadav, to announce the names of Thakur, Parveen and Harivansh.

Thakur had tears in his eyes when his name was announced. “I had never dreamt that Nitishji would do so much for me,” Thakur said.

“Thakur was made a minister in the NDA-I government and everyone had expected his respectable rehabilitation after he lost his seat in the 2010 Assembly elections. Nitishji, however, kept mum for three years and now he has rehabilitated Karpoori’s son in a grand manner,” said a JD (U) insider.

The rehabilitation of Thakur, feel political analysts, would send a strong message to the EBC voters, who constitute more than 28 per cent of Bihar’s population.

The EBCs played a crucial role in bringing the NDA to power in 2005 by backing the alliance as a block. Ever since the NDA split in June last year, the BJP has been trying to make inroads in this votebank.

BJP president Rajnath Singh visited Patna on Wednesday to kick off the birth anniversary celebrations of Karpoori Thakur, to be held across the state with the intention to woo EBCs.

The retiring JD(U) MPs — Tiwari, NK Singh and Ali — have been asked to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Buxar, Banka and Sheohar respectively. All three are reported to have conveyed their reluctance to contest the Lok Sabha polls at such short notice.

Bharat Ratna plea

Nitish said the state government would write to the Centre demanding a posthumous Bharat Ratna be bestowed on Karpoori Thakur.

BJP duo

The BJP has decided to renominate C.P. Thakur and field R.K. Sinha from the other seat it has gained at the RJD’s expense.