Patna: Almost a week after the BJP and the JD(U) formally announced their seat-sharing deal for the Bihar assembly elections, the national party has finally cracked the whip on its rebels contesting on Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) tickets in the first phase of the polls.
On Monday evening, state unit president Sanjay Jaiswal issued a letter suspending nine senior BJP leaders — Ramashray Chaurasia, Usha Vidyarthi, Ravindra Yadav, Rajendar Singh, Ajay Pratap Singh, Shweta Singh, Mrinal Shekhar, Indu Shekhar and Anil Kumar — for six years after all of them bagged LJP tickets.
In his letter, Jaiswal said the nine had maligned the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the party’s image by their actions. “This time we are serious about six years. They will not be taken back after the polls,” Jaiswal said.
The issue has caused massive friction between the alliance partners as it was seen as an attempt by the BJP to undercut Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. This was primarily due to the fact that the LJP is not fielding any candidate against the BJP.
“One thing had to be made very clear — the LJP is not a part of NDA,” Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi told ThePrint.
The JD(U) was quick to welcome the step. “It will go a long way in removing any confusion over the issue. The public meeting by BJP national president J.P. Nadda in Gaya Sunday and the public meetings of Sushil Kumar Modi have helped,” JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan told ThePrint.
Both partners are now working on the “big event” — a joint rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. “The logistics of the event are being worked out,” Ranjan said.
Opinion polls may have forced BJP move
While the BJP had been threatening to suspend these rebel leaders for a while now, its letter comes just five days before the last date for filing nomination papers for the second phase of the elections on 3 November, when 94 assembly segments will go to polls.
It was the pre-election surveys that forced the party to take this decision, sources in the BJP said. The Times Now, C-Voter opinion poll has predicted 160 seats for the NDA, with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with about 85 seats. The halfway mark in the 243-member assembly is 122 seats.
While the poll gives around 70 seats to the JD(U), it also predicts the opposition RJD-Congress alliance will bag close to 80 seats.
“It is a tight contest in several assembly segments. Imagine a scenario where a cornered Nitish Kumar gets enough seats that he crosses over to the Grand Alliance to form the government, leaving us out in the cold,” said a BJP leader.
Another senior BJP leader, however, said those suspended are taking the party action with a pinch of salt. “What better example could there be than Sanjay Jaiswal himself,” the leader said. “Jaiswal quit the BJP in 2004 and contested on a RJD ticket in 2005 and lost. He re-entered the BJP in 2008 and was given a ticket for the Lok Sabha in 2009, an election he won.”
Nitish begins campaign
CM Nitish Kumar began his election campaign by holding a virtual rally Monday. He will be holding a series of public meetings from Wednesday.
“Time is short and he has selected places where he will hold public meetings. That includes seats where BJP candidates are contesting polls on LJP tickets,” said a senior JD(U) leader.
The LJP is yet to come out with its list of candidates for the second phase. It will be a list closely monitored by the JD(U) for BJP rebels.