While all political parties have been talking about following in the footsteps of the debutant Aam Admi Party by fielding fresh faces in the coming Lok Sabha polls, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-U leader Nitish Kumar has set the ball rolling by deciding not to renominate his party’s three sitting MPs in the coming biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha scheduled for February 7. Anita Katyal reports.
This includes the high-profile former bureaucrat N K Singh.
Nitish Kumar, it is reliably learnt, has taken a conscious decision to field new candidates in the Upper House to set the tone for the forthcoming general election.
Besides NK Singh, the other two JD-U Rajya Sabha members of Parliament who are retiring are Shivanand Tiwari and Sabir Ali.
All three have instead been asked to contest the Lok Sabha elections. While Singh has been offered the Banka Lok Sabha seat, Tiwari has been given the Buxar seat and Ali the Sheohar constituency.
Of the 55 Rajya Sabha seats due to fall vacant across 16 states, Bihar’s share is five. The JD-U and the Bharatiya Janata Party are expected to win three and two seats, respectively.
Clearly, the AAP success story in Delhi has left a deep impression on Nitish who promptly followed in its footsteps even if it meant axing his most high-profile MP NK Singh.
The retired Indian Administrative Service officer served as Nitish’s point person in Delhi for the past six years. Not only does Singh have a vast network of friends across the political spectrum but he also has a keen understanding of the capital’s power structure.
His proximity to big corporate houses had proved to be an added bonus.But with the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP setting a new trend in politics, Nitish has decided to forsake his old friends. Singh was useful for the Bihar chief minister, but in the changed circumstances, the JD-U leader obviously thought it was best to sacrifice the former bureaucrat.
He could, however, be replaced by former foreign service officer Pavan Verma who joined the JD-U recently and has emerged as the party’s key spokesperson in the capital.
While this is one fall-out of the coming Rajya Sabha polls, the other story of the February 7 elections is the understanding being forged between the Communist Party of the India-Marxist and the Congress.
The two parties are learnt to have decide to pool their votes in West Bengal to support an independent candidate -- academic-writer Hossain-ur-Rehman -- for a Rajya Sabha berth.
Although the two parties had also jointly fielded S Maliabadi in UPA I, this recent pact could prove to be a prelude to an alliance in the Lok Sabha elections.
Having been edged out by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who is set to sweep her state in the coming general election, the Left parties and the Congress may be forced to go in for an informal electoral pact.
Besides, both parties have a common goal of halting the onward march of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile, Mamata is said to have nominated actor Mithun Chakraborty, artist Jogen Chowdhury and K.D.Singh for the Upper House. Chandigarh-based K D Singh was elected from Jharkhand as a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate but he soon switched loyalties and crossed over to the TMC.
He is said to be the party’s key financer, which explains his proximity to TMC chief.
Besides Bihar and West Bengal, seven seats are falling vacant in Maharashtra, six seats each in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, four in Odisha and Gujarat, three each in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Assam, two each in Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and one each in Manipur, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh.
Among the members whose terms are set to end soon are Murli Deora, G K Vasan, Venugopal Dhoot, Parimal Nathwani, Motilal Vora, Prakash Javadekar, Shanta Kumar, C P Thakur, Prabhat Jha, Balbir Punj, Jayanti Natrajan and Prabha Thakur.
Of the six seats falling vacant in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress will get only three this time against the five it bagged last time. The Telangana crisis and the rise of Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress have cast a shadow over the polls in this trouble-torn state.
The Congress could find itself in deep trouble if the legislators from Seemandhara, who are unhappy about the division of the state, defy the party high command and vote against the official candidate. Of the five sitting members Nandi Yellaiah and Mohammad Ali Khan are from Telangana while KVP Ramachandra Rao, T Subbarami Reddy and T Ratnabai are from Seemandhra.
While AICC treasurer Motilal Vora is expected to be renominated from the lone seat which the Congress can win in Chhattisgarh, Jayanti Natarajan who was elected from Tamil Nadu may not be that lucky.
The Congress does not have the numbers to get her elected. Moreover, Jayanti Natarajan is in the dog-house for her handling of the environment ministry. She was asked to quit the ministry recently for this reason.
Similarly, Prabha Thakur will also have to sit out as the Congress does not have the strength in the Rajasthan assembly to get her elected. There is some talk that defeated Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit could get a berth from Haryana but this move is being resisted by the state leaders who do not want the seat to go to an outsider.
The BJP is on a strong wicket after its spectacular victory in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the recent assembly polls. It will retain the three seats presently held by BJP vice president Prabhat Jha, state BJP unit vice president Raghunandan Sharma and Maya Singh, who is now a minister in the state. Jha is expected to be nominated again while hectic lobbying is on for the other two seats.
Modi’s close aide Om Prakash Mathur is expected to get a second term from Rajasthan while “outsider” NC Shaina, Maharashtra BJP treasurer, is learnt to be in the running as she originally belongs to Shekhawati and comes from the Vysya community.
If there is no agreement on her nomination, the BJP could nominate BJP leader Ramdas Agarwal, who also belongs to the Vysya community.