2019 Lok Sabha poll: Nitish’s JD(U) struggles to find good candidates
The biggest challenge JD(U) faces after Prashant Kishor brokered a ‘deal’ between the BJP chief Amit Shah and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar will be in selection of candidates for the next general election
The biggest challenge the Janata Dal (United) faces after Prashant Kishor brokered ‘deal’ between the Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in New Delhi on September 19, will be in the selection of candidates for Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats in the next general election.
Though this is not the first time that news have come that the two parties have almost finalised the sharing of seats, yet JD(U) sources claimed that both the parties would contest 15 seats each, leaving the balance 10 seats for the Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.
If this formula of 15-15 for BJP-JD(U) is indeed final, the real problem for Nitish Kumar is that his party is woefully short of quality candidates to field. The party top-brass is packed with Rajya Sabha types and wheeler-dealers with virtually no roots in Bihar, where the party actually exists.
Though this is not the first time that news have come that the two parties have almost finalised the sharing of seats, yet JD(U) sources claimed that both the parties would contest 15 seats each, leaving the balance 10 seats for the Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party
At present the JD(U) has just two MPs in the Lok Sabha––both of them little-known entities. For instance hardly anyone in Bihar––even several mediapersons––are aware of who actually is the JD(U) Lok Sabha MP from Nitish’s own home constituency of Nalanda. This is the position of Kaushalendra Kumar, though he has been in the Lok Sabha for the last nine years. The other seat which the JD(U) won in 2014 was that of Purnea. This seat was won by Santosh Kushwaha, who was a BJP MLA, and switched sides on the eve of the last Lok Sabha poll, got JD(U) ticket and defeated sitting BJP MP, Uday Singh. Santosh is a slightly better known name––though he too is a political lightweight.
Today’s JD(U) leadership is quite different from the one in 2009 (when it won 20 seats) or before. Men like KC Tyagi and former diplomat Pavan Varma are both from Uttar Pradesh and have no base in Bihar. Another leading light RCP Singh is yet to give up his bureaucratic mind-set and become a true grassrootS politician. Then there is Sanjay Jha, who vainly flaunts his connection with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Now comes Prashant Kishor, with no experience in electoral politics beyond strategising for politicians. Rumours have started doing the rounds that Kishor may be fielded from Buxar Lok Sabha seat, from where he hails. The problem, however, is that this constituency is at present being represented in the Lok Sabha by none else but the big-mouthed BJP minister in the Modi cabinet, Ashwini Choubey.
Gone are the days of George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav, who won elections from the state several times. Sushil Singh and Prabhunath Singh had crossed over to the BJP and RJD, respectively.
The JD(U) may have to struggle a lot to find winnable Muslim candidates, as Nitish has lost his earlier secular image by ditching the secular Grand Alliance to join hands with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah
Captain Jai Narayan Nishad’s son, Ajay, is now a BJP MP and Suraj Bhan Singh’s wife, Veena Devi, now a member of Parliament from Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. Of late she has been extremely critical of Nitish and rumours abound in Patna that she is likely to cross over to the Congress, which may give her ticket from Nawada against Union minister Giriraj Singh of the BJP. Incidentally, both are Bhumihars.
Till sometime back, JD(U) would proudly boast of being the party of Extremely Backward Castes and Dalits, but today it is finding it difficult to find candidates from these two social bases. Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi floated his own party, Hindustani Awam Morcha, and has joined the RJD-Congress Grand Alliance. Similarly, former minister Ramai Ram is no more in the JD(U). Former Bihar Assembly speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary too has now left the party and has turned a bitter critic of Nitish. Former chief minister Ram Sundar Das, who as JD(U) nominee defeated Ram Vilas Paswan in Hajipur in 2009, passed away.
In fact the JD(U) may not get any SC reserved seat in Bihar to contest on as three of the six are being represented by LJP––Ram Vilas, his brother Ram Chander and son Chirag––and rest by the BJP.
With Captain Nishad’s son no longer in the party and Ramnath Thakur, son of former chief minister Karpoori Thakur being another Rajya Sabha type politician, the party is having a tough time finding any EBC leader of reckoning.
Rumours have started doing the rounds that Prashant Kishor may be fielded from Buxar Lok Sabha seat, from where he hails. The problem, however, is that this constituency is represented in the Lok Sabha by none else but the big-mouthed BJP minister in the Modi cabinet, Ashwini Choubey.
No doubt there are several other former MPs who lost in the last Lok Sabha poll. But they are keeping low profile as they find no place in the party’s decision-making body––all packed with Upper House type leaders. These former Lok Sabha MPs may not mind switching sides if offered tickets by the RJD or Congress.
The party may have to struggle a lot to get winnable Muslim candidates too as Nitish has lost his earlier secular image by ditching the secular Grand Alliance to join hands with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
The grapevine has it that the JD(U) is trying to woo former minister Parween Amanullah back to the party. She may be put as candidate from Kishanganj against sitting Congress MP, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi. Parween’s husband, Afzal Amanullah, former home secretary of Bihar, is considered close to Nitish. After his retirement, he has been made Chairman of RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority). Parween may try her luck as her late father Syed Shahabuddin had once represented Kishanganj. But that was a different era and Syed Shahabuddin was a different personality. She would be considered an outsider in Kishanganj, which has over two-thirds Muslim electorate.
Apart from Parween, former MP Monazir Hasan is also trying to get a ticket. He has recently re-joined the JD(U) after a brief stay in BJP.
Though builder-turned-politician Abu Qaiser too is vainly trying to throw his hat in the ring as a JD(U) candidate, the party sources dismiss any possibility of his candidature.
It is true elections are now largely contested in Presidential style where the face of Prime Minister and Chief Minister do matter, but that is not always true––especially when the Opposition is hell bent upon joining hands to defeat the NDA. In such a situation, the face of local candidates does matter. This is more so when both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have lost much of their sheen.
- Arun Jaitley
- Janata Dal (United)
- Sharad Yadav
- Karpoori Thakur
- Ram Vilas Paswan
- Lok Janshakti Party
- George Fernandes
- Jitan Ram Manjhi
- Upendra Kushwaha
- Syed Shahabuddin
- Giriraj Singh
- Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
- Sanjay Jha
- Rashtriya Lok Samata Party
- Hindustani Awam Morcha
- Ashwini Choubey
- Ram Sundar Das
- Chirag Paswan
- K C Tyagi
- Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah
- Kaushalendra Kumar
- Uday Singh
- Prabhunath Singh
- Suraj Bhan Singh
- Ramai Ram
- Ram Chander
- Ramnath Thakur
- Parween Amanullah
- MaulanaAsrar ul Haque Qasmi
- Afzal Amanullah
- Real Estate Regulatory Authority
- Abu Qaiser
- Monazir Hasan