NDA partners in Bihar have started backroom talks to put up a joint candidate, preferably from the BJP, to fill up a Rajya Sabha seat that fell vacant following the death of LJP founder and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
The reason why the BJP likely to get the seat despite the LJP led by Chirag Paswan having a natural claim is said to be the objections raised by the Janata Dal (United) which is extremely upset with the 38-year-old Paswan scion who put up candidates against its nominees in the recent assembly election. The LJP played the role of a spoilsport to reduce the JD(U)’s tally to just 43 seats.
Paswan’s term in the Rajya Sabha was till April 2, 2024. This means, the new incumbent to the seat would have a term for almost four years.
Sources said the JD(U) leadership has already intimated the BJP about its reservations about the LJP’s nominee amid speculations that Chirag was initially keen on making his mother Reena Paswan the candidate for the seat arguing it would be a right tribute to the deceased former union minister who had shared a close bond with the BJP till his end.
“The JD(U) at no cost would support a LJP candidate. There are certain reservations on it and we stand by it,” said a senior JD(U) functionary who did not want to be named.
The BJP, knowing well how important the JD (U) is for the NDA that has a small majority in the 243-member house is not in any mood to annoy chief minister Nitish Kumar and has almost made up its mind to put its candidate for the seat. A candidate from the JD(U) cannot be ruled out at the moment though the JD(U) bagged two seats out of three NDA got in its kitty against five vacant seats from Bihar in the Rajya Sabha polls last March.
The BJP, is also in no mood to give LJP the seat which was in the saffron party’s kitty till Ravishankar Prasad was elected to the Lok Sabha. “This is our seat. Late Ramvilas ji was adjusted on our seat because of the formula worked out during the Lok Sabha polls as the late leader enjoyed respect of all NDA leaders,” clarified a BJP state functionary.
Even the LJP camp, aware of its limitations to push for its own nominee has apparently sent feelers to the BJP that any candidate from its side would be acceptable to the party. “We have left it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to decide on the candidate. The LJP has been reiterating that the party is with the BJP at the Centre,” said party’s state spokesperson Asraf Ansari.
Significantly, the names of many candidates from the BJP are doing the rounds for the seat including former Union minister Shahnawaj Hussain and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, whose candidature for the RS berth is based on the perception that the senior BJP leader was not given the post of deputy CM this time and he could be accommodated suitably at the Union cabinet. Shahnawaj too is a strong candidate having waited for a long time to get a RS berth.
“I am not aware of any move about my candidature for RS berth. I cannot comment on speculations,” Modi said, when asked about the likelihood of him being the BJP’s nominee to the vacant seat for the upper house of Parliament.
However, BJP sources say that one cannot rule out a surprise element as far as Rajya Sabha polls are concerned just as it was in the case of the deputy CM’s post.
As things stand, there are chances the nominee for the RS seat from the NDA – which could win the seat easily having 126 MLAs as against 122 required for sailing through in the election- would be decided in the next few days after the first session of the 17th assembly concludes on Friday.
The chances of the opposition RJD-led Grand Alliance putting up a candidate cannot be ruled out given how it cornered the state government in the Speaker’s election by fielding its own nominee. In case, the GA puts a candidate for the RS seat, the election would be no less a close finish as chances of cross voting cannot be ruled out, which could put the ruling NDA in trouble.