Patna: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sprung yet another surprise in Bihar Tuesday, naming Vijay Kumar Sinha as its candidate for the post of assembly Speaker. The party stunned BJP leaders who were expecting the announcement of senior leader Nand Kishor Yadav’s name for the post.
Now, with Yadav out of the picture, the BJP has put up all new faces for its state leadership.
Earlier, former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and ex-state minister Prem Kumar had also been dropped from the Bihar BJP leadership.
The party has installed two new deputy CMs — Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi — to replace Modi. Sinha is the latest addition to this list of new crop of leaders, representing a significant section of voters by caste.
According to sources, when Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Patna on 15 November to oversee the change of Bihar leadership, he returned and told the central leadership that either the post of deputy CM or the Speaker must be given to an upper caste leader.
He believed that this section has stood by the party and would feel stamped out if a top post was not given to it.
Sinha, a Bhumihar by caste, was the final choice. He is an engineer by education and a hardcore Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker, and has been winning from Lakhisarai assembly seat since 2010.
If Sinha wins Wednesday, he will become the first BJP Speaker in the Bihar assembly. The post is crucial for the survival of the NDA government which has a thin majority of only 125 in the 243-member House.
The party’s new leadership consists of Tarkishore Prasad, who is a trader by caste. This community constitutes 6 to 7 per cent of voters in the state.
Renu Devi is a Nonia — part of the economically backward classes (EBCs), which form 29 per cent of voters. Sinha’s caste has around 15 per cent share in voters. Together, the three will represent around 50 per cent of voters in Bihar by identity.
According to a senior party leader, the plea that political heavyweights have been replaced by lightweight leaders is “not acceptable”. “Sushil, Nand Kishor and Prem Kumar were considered political lightweights when they were inducted in 1995. They grew politically. So will these three,” added the leader.
According to another senior party leader who didn’t wish to be named, the central party leadership’s move has echoes of 1995 when it had replaced Kailashpati Mishra, Tarakant Jha and Ashwani Kumar with leaders like Modi, Yadav and Kumar. At the time, the party had switched gears from being an upper-caste party to a backward-caste one.
Bihar was then reeling under Mandal and Lalu Prasad’s politics, said the leader.
The party reaped dividends over the next 25 years and is now rubbing shoulders with RJD as the largest party of the state. Now it is time to move ahead, the leader added.
The RJD challenge
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), however, has thrown a challenge, pitching its candidate Awadh Bihari Choudhary against Sinha. The RJD rejected Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad’s plea to Tejashwi Yadav to help in the unanimous election of Sinha.
The numbers are so close that it was a good opportunity to force an election, RJD MLA Alok Mehta told ThePrint, adding that the contest should not be seen as symbolic.