The candidates are Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP), JD (U) state president Bashistha Narain Singh and his party’s sitting member Mahendra Prasad aka King Mahendra, Delhi University professor and RJD national spokesman Manoj Jha and Katihar Medical College founder and RJD candidate Ahmad Ashfaque Karim besides Congress’s Akhilesh Prasad Singh, who was an RJD minister in the UPA-1 at Centre.
Interestingly, no one from dalit, backward or extremely backward castes could find favour with either the RJD, the JD(U)-BJP or the Congress which have fielded upper caste candidates with the exception of Karim who is from the minority community.
Though Ravi Shankar said this election would substantially up the NDA numbers in the Rajya Sabha “where several important bills get stuck up due to opposition parties”, the fact is the BJP will lose one seat and JD (U) two in the Upper House from Bihar. The gainers are the RJD and Congress with the latter set to get a Rajya Sabha seat from Bihar after 14 years since 2004 when Congress’ R K Dhawan was elected.
For, the six vacant seats included four of the JD (U) and two of the BJP. In the 243-member state assembly with effective strength of 240 for voting, the RJD currently has 79 MLAs, JD (U) 70, BJP 52 and Congress 27. The CPI (ML) has three MLAs, Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party two each and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) one. There are four Independents. Every Rajya Sabha nominee from the state will require 35 votes to win.
Pharma tycoon Mahendra (78) from Jehanabad, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980, will be the Rajya Sabha member for the seventh term while Ravi Shankar Prasad’s will be the fourth term in the Upper House.
Karim, who recently joined the RJD, had unsuccessfully contested the 2010 assembly election from Katihar on LJP ticket and was arrested in June 2013 with Rs 2 crore on the charge of managing medical seats for MBBS aspirants.
Talking to TOI after filing his papers, Karim denied the allegations of a monetary deal with the RJD for the nomination. “RJD chief Lalu Prasad recognised my social works in the Kosi region. As far as the 2013 case is concerned, the Patna high court refused to take cognisance of it and disposed it of in 2014. I am expecting to get my seized money and jewellery back soon,” he said.
Manoj, who is being seen as the “Lalu’s vocal cord” in the Upper House, denied that his nomination signalled a paradigm shift in the RJD’s political strategy. “The RJD has always been a party of the poor and not of only Muslims, Yadavs or dalits,” he said.
Asked what transpired in his meeting last week with Lalu, who is currently lodged in a Ranchi jail as a convict in a fodder scam case, Akhilesh told this reporter, “He blessed me.”