Lalu announces support to JD(U) candidates in RS polls

Patna: Marking realignment of “secular” forces in Bihar against a resurgent BJP, RJD today announced the support of its 21 MLAs to JD(U) candidates for two Rajya Sabha seats in view of rebellion among the ranks of Nitish Kumar’s party.

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad said his party would support ruling JD(U) to foil the “game” of BJP which had “propped up” two Independent candidates.

Lalu, who has long been a bitter critic of Kumar, the former Bihar chief minister, said his support was based on the need of present times and would comment on the likelihood of his tie-up with Kumar when such a need arose.

“We are told that we should forget the past, should not worry about the future and think about the present. So I am taking this stand on the current agenda (Rajya Sabha election) … I can’t let the BJP’s game succeed,” he told reporters.

JD(U) has 117 MLAs in the Assembly, including the Speaker, and enjoys support of four Congress MLAs and some Independents but rebellion by a section of legislators following the party’s drubbing in Lok Sabha polls has made the victory of its two candidates a bit uncertain.

The support of RJD, which is also plagued by dissidence, may prove to be crucial.

JD(U) President Sharad Yadav has already been elected unopposed to the Upper House but its two other candidates — Pawan Verma and Gulam Rasool Baliyawi — are facing challenge from Independents Anil Sharma, a builder who had contested Lok Sabha election on JD(U) ticket, and Sabir Ali, who had joined BJP but was axed after many party leaders opposed his entry.

BJP has 84 MLAs, RJD 21, Congress four and CPI one legislator while there are five Independents. Since the arithmetic is weighing against ruling JD(U), the support of 21 RJD MLAs is crucial for it in a House of 243, with an effective strength of 232 because of 11 vacancies.

Prasad asked RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui to coordinate with the JD-U to see to it that the RS poll was conducted smoothly.

Prasad, however, while announcing his decision to support the JD(U), took a potshot at the party, which had remained opposed to him since 1994, blaming it for letting the BJP gain ground in Bihar and weakening the forces of social justice.

“We want to make it clear that not only the present ruling party provided a strong base to the BJP and gave it an opportunity to take roots in the state, but also left no stone unturned to weaken the forces of social justice,” Prasad said.

“However, we understand our responsibility because we stick to our principles. In future also we will tread the path of social justice and secularism. We will further strengthen the socialist movement in the state,” he said.

Prasad, who was flanked by party legislators who had attended the meeting, said four MLAs could not attend the meeting because of different reasons, but reiterated that they all would vote for the JD(U) official nominees.
Reacting to the incident, when several JD (U) leaders had played down the RJD support to the newly formed Jitan Ram Manjhi government during its confidence vote, as well as, the bitterness in both the parties against each other, Prasad said there was no need to look back to things gone by.

“What they (the ruling party) did earlier should not be seen. ………Our goal is to strengthen social justice and equality in the state and we should not deviate from it,” Prasad said.

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