NDA announces its candidates for three seats in Bihar

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NEW DELHI: The ruling NDA in Bihar on Wednesday announced its candidates for three of the five Rajya Sabha seats in the state, where elections will be held on March 26.

The BJP chose Vivek Thakur while the Janata Dal (United) named Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh and MP Ram Nath Thakur as their candidates for the Upper House from the state.

The five Rajya Sabha seats from the state fall vacant next month. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) holds three of these seats while its alliance partner BJP holds the remaining two.

The JD(U)-BJP coalition’s existing strength in the assembly this time, however, is poised to win only three out of these five seats.

It is so because the Congress-RJD combine, which had fought the 2015 state assembly polls in alliance with the JD(U), had seen a dramatic rise in their tally and are slated to bag two Rajya Sabha seats. The RJD, however, is yet to name its candidates.

The BJP’s central unit on Wednesday named Vivek Thakur, the son of C P Thakur, as its lone candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Bihar. Thakur’s present term in the Upper House expires next month.

Vivek Thakur has earlier been a member of the state legislative council, besides being a national vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.

His father CP Thakur, a renowned medical practitioner of the state, had started as a Congress MP in 1980s, but joined the BJP later. He was also a member in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet and had headed the party’s state unit.

At a press conference here, the JD(U) which is headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, named Harivansh and Ram Chandra Thakur both of whom will be running for their second consecutive terms.

While Harivansh is the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Thakur is a prominent leader belonging to extremely backward communities and the son of Bihar’s former Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur.

A prominent socialist leader, Karpoori Thakur was considered political gurus of other socialists leaders in the state, including arch-rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.

The JD(U) and BJP along with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP have close to 130 MLAs in the 243-member assembly, enabling the coalition to bag only three seats this time.

The RJD-Congress combine, which has just under 110 MLAs, is likely to win the remaining two.

While the RJD has been asserting that it was going to field its candidates for both seats, the Congress has been imploring its alliance partner to help it have one member in the Rajya Sabha from the state.

The NDA’s choice of candidates seems to have been made keeping in mind the assembly elections due later this year with both the BJP and JD(U) having worked towards getting their caste arithmetic right.

Vivek Thakur is a Bhumihar, an influential upper caste group, considered loyal to the BJP. The party had to take a tough call in refusing a second term to Ravindra Kishore Sinha, a billionaire businessman with deep roots in the Sangh Parivar. Sinha is a Kayastha, yet another influential caste group sympathetic to the BJP though with a smaller population.

Notably, Bhumihars had earlier expressed their displeasure over “inadequate” allocation of tickets to their leaders during the Lok Sabha elections last year. All the three NDA constituents had fielded one candidate each from the community. The BJP leadership had to come out with an assurance that the community will be given preference in Rajya Sabha and the legislative council polls.

The JD(U) has sought to reassure its core vote base of EBC by placing its trust in Ram Nath Thakur again, besides trying to reach out to Rajputs by considering Harivansh for a second term.

Not traditionally seen as JD(U) backers, the Rajputs have been sympathetic towards the Congress, the RJD and the BJP at different points of time.

Filing of nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha elections ends on March 13.

Source: Press Trust of India