Congress new address for disgruntled Bihar politicians
Patna, March 9: Shatrughan Sinha, Uday Singh, Kirti Azad, Arun Kumar, Mahboob Ali Qaiser, Pappu Yadav and Anant Singh are all non-Congress politicians but share one thing in common: They are keen to contest upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Bihar as the Grand Old Party's candidates. They are among nearly a dozen non-Congress leaders keen on a party ticket to contest the polls.
More than the ruling BJP and its major ally, the JD-U of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, or the main opposition RJD, the Congress has become the most sought-after party by well-known disgruntled leaders of other parties.
Unlike during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it's a different Congress this time around. It is aggressive and not ready to follow the dictat of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, its ally.
Bollywood actor-turned-politician and disgruntled incumbent BJP MP from Patna Saheb Satrughan Sinha "is ready to opt for the Congress if the party offers him a ticket as his chances of getting a BJP ticket is almost nil after he repeatedly targeted the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi", a close aide of his told IANS.
According to the aide, Sinha may join the Congress after party president Rahul Gandhi clears a ticket for him.
"Shatrughan Sinha had met Lalu in Ranchi (where he is serving time after being convicted of graft), his wife (and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi) and (son) Tejashwi Yadav in Patna in recent days. But it had nothing to do with RJD ticket; it was more to pressurise the Congress to give him a ticket. One thing is clear: Satrughan Sinha will not join the RJD as it will annoy his upper caste supporters," the aide explained.
Senior BJP leader and former MP from Purnea, Uday Singh, who had resigned from the party last January, is also standing in line for a Congress ticket. Singh's turn-around came after the the BJP finalised its seat-sharing pact with the JD-U and decided to contest from 17 of Bihar's 40 seats - but not from Purnea.
Singh is the brother of N.K. Singh, a retired bureaucrat who is the Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission and a senior BJP member.
Arun Kumar, a disgruntled member of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) who represented Jehanabad in the outgoing Lok Sabha, is also in talks with the Congress to contest on its ticket. He is confident of victory with the support of the Grand Alliance or mahagathbandan, of which the Congress is a part.
BJP ally LIP's Mahboob Ali Qaiser (Khagaria) is also keen to return to Congress as the BJP is eyeing his seat under the NDA's seat-sharing formula.Qaiser,a traditional Congress member, joined the LJP of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in 2014 after the party denied him a ticket.
Two Bahubali leaders, including Pappu Yadav, expelled from the RJD and who represented Madhepura and an independent legislator, Anant Singh, are also in touch with the Congress for tickets. "Both will join Congress after they would be assured of tickets," party leader said.
But both Yadav and Singh, are known criminals-turned-politicians. If Yadav was once closed to Lalu Prasad, Singh was close to Nitish Kumar.
In last two months sone well-known leaders from other parties have joined the Congress. Prominent among them is the NCP's Tariq Anwar (Katihar), suspended BJP member Kirti Jha Azad (Darbganga) and former MP Lovely Anand, wife of jailed Bahubali and former MP Anand Mohan.
Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha told IANS that some leaders of BJP and other parties "are in touch with us. Congress is happy to welcome those who want to join the party ahead of polls.It will strengthen the party. Few of them may contest as Congress candidates but it is not yet finalised".