Bihar's former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi Thursday looked set to get a walkover in the by-election for a Rajya Sabha seat with the Grand Alliance deciding against fielding its candidate and the nomination of an Independent likely to be rejected. After having vowed not to give a walkover to Modi, the RJD-led Grand Alliance flinched from entering the contest as the odds were stacked against the opposition coalition.
Modi, who filed his nomination on Wednesday in the presence of fellow BJP leaders, those belonging to the other constituents of the ruling NDA, besides Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, appears all set to get elected unopposed on December 7, the last date for withdrawal of papers. Both Kumar and state BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal said that Modi, who has been replaced as Deputy CM by two lesser known figures, was tipped for a "major responsibility" at the Centre.
According to poll officials, other than Modi an Independent candidate Shyam Nandan Prasad has filed his nomination though the latter's papers are unlikely to stand scrutiny as he failed to enlist the support of at least 10 members of the 243-strong assembly as proposers, which is mandatory under the rules. The RJD, which helms the Grand Alliance, issued a press release claiming it "never had any intention to contest the by-poll and the speculations stemmed from mutual distrust among NDA constituents", though a top party leader cited a different reason for the change in decision.
"Nobody in the RJD had officially said the party was planning to contest the by-poll…..Of course, all felt that had Ram Vilas Paswan's wife been fielded, it would have been a fitting tribute to the Dalit leader whose contribution to politics in Bihar has been huge and whose death has necessitated the by-election," party spokesman Chitaranjan Gagan said in the release. However, earlier a top party leader had told PTI requesting anonymity that "it is always a given fact that when only one Rajya Sabha seat is up for grabs, the ruling coalition will win since it is in power by virtue of a majority in the House. In such a situation, the RJD and the opposition coalition were better off not contesting just for the sake of contesting".
The RJD had taken exception to the BJP denying the LJP a chance to retain the seat, allegedly out of "khunnas" (spite) towards the party's young president Chirag Paswan who went solo in the recently held assembly polls which harmed the NDA, in particular the JD(U) headed by the chief minister. However, the 37-year-old LJP leader made it clear that Reena Paswan, his mother, had no political ambitions and acknowledged the fact that his father had got elected from a seat that "belonged to the BJP, which must have the right to decide whom to field".
Ram Vilas Paswan had got elected last year in a by- poll necessitated by his cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad's election to the Lok Sabha. LJP sources also said that the party was hopeful of a berth in the Union council of ministers for Chirag as the party was now left with no representation despite being a steadfast NDA ally.
They also said throwing the hat in the ring for the Rajya Sabha polls would have meant burning the bridges with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.