The Rashtriya Janata Dal has said the grand alliance will support late Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's wife Reena Paswan in the Rajya Sabha elections if the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) fields her against NDA candidate Sushil Kumar Modi.
The seat fell vacant upon the death of former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
The BJP-led NDA, of which the late leader's Lok Janshakti Party has been a constituent, has fielded former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who will file his nomination papers on December 2.
Paswan's son Chirag sought to downplay the move, saying "the seat belonged to the BJP. It is for the party to decide whom to field in the by-election". Paswan had got elected, unopposed, in a by-poll last year necessitated by his cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad winning the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha seat.
Amid speculations that the opposition Grand Alliance is likely to throw its hat in the ring for the Rajya Sabha seat, the RJD has hinted that it was willing to support Reena Paswan against Sushil Modi in the Rajya Sabha elections.
“After the demise of Ram Vilas Paswan, we wanted the BJP to make Reena Paswan the NDA candidate and it would have been a befitting tribute to Ram Vilas Paswan, but we do not know why BJP did not give this seat to LJP," RJD spokesperson Shakti Singh Yadav was quoted as saying in news reports.
Had the late Ram Vilas Paswan's party been allowed to contest, we would have considered supporting their candidate even though his party is not our alliance partner, he said, adding that "the BJP has acted out of spite ('khunnas') by denying the seat to the LJP."
Sources in the RJD, which leads the five-party opposition coalition, said the feelers have been sent to Chirag that he consider fielding his mother Reena Paswan from the seat and assured him of its "full support".
The offer appears to have put the 37-year-old LJP president in a bind as agreeing to the offer would be tantamount to burning his bridges with the BJP, to which he claims to remain loyal despite his brinkmanship, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for whom he expresses unreserved admiration.
The LJP chief has been maintaining that his misadventure in the recent elections stemmed from the conviction that there was resentment in the state against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his JD(U).
Numbers in the state assembly, too, appear to be in favour of the NDA, which now includes smaller parties like VIP and HAM. The ruling coalition has 125 MLAs in the 243-strong assembly as against only 110 of the Grand Alliance.
The opposition coalition, which hopes to rally along parties like Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM which has five MLAs, is of the view that such a contest would be a win-win situation as even if Reena Paswan were to lose, the NDA would end up angering a large section of Dalits.
Sources in the Grand Alliance also said that if Chirag did not come out with a positive response, the coalition might still go ahead and field its candidate for the seat, engaging in yet another trial of strength with the ruling NDA.
Filing of nomination papers will come to a close on December 3. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is December 7 and voting is scheduled on December 14.
(With PTI inputs)
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