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The Ever-changing Axis of Friendship of JP Acolytes Fighting on Patna Sahib Pitch

The axis of political friendships among four JP acolytes--Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Sushil Kumar Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad -- has undergone a change this time with Kumar, Sushil and Prasad teaming up against Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Ashok Mishra |

Updated:May 18, 2019, 9:40 PM IST
The Ever-changing Axis of Friendship of JP Acolytes Fighting on Patna Sahib Pitch
File photos of Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha.

Patna: Three years ago, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar used to heap praises on BJP’s rebellious Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Sinha dubbing him as ‘Pride of Bihar’, while the actor-turned-politician elatedly reciprocated by describing Kumar as ‘PM material’ much to the discomfiture of the BJP top brass.

Nitish then was chief minister of Bihar, with the support of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav while, Sinha had started grumbling and commenting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after the BJP’s humble performance in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls, Sinha had tweeted that the issue of Bihari (Nitish) versus Bahari (Narendra Modi) had been settled once for all. The ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ was Kumar’s key narrative to attack PM Modi during the state polls. Sinha had described Kumar as ‘guardian of the state’ saying ‘Nitish Kumar is a tall leader and will be good for Bihar’.

The top state BJP leadership, including Sushil Kumar Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad, was baying for Sinha’s blood for his outrageous comments against the Prime Minister.

Now, it is just a paradox that Kumar has all praise for Prasad, the BJP candidate from Patna Sahib, facing a challenge from the sitting MP Sinha. Ironically, Sinha this time is a Congress nominee sponsored by Kumar’s arch rival Lalu Prasad Yadav.

At an election meeting at Fatuha, Kumar said that Prasad was not only his good friend since the 1974 JP movement but also a good lawyer and an able political executive having proved his mettle in the role of a union minister.

“I used to wonder why Ravi Shankar has not yet been elected to the Lok Sabha when all the JP movement contemporaries had become member of the lower house of Parliament. The time has now come when Ravi Shankar should move to Lok Sabha from Rajya Sabha through Patna Sahib Constituency,” Nitish said.

“You have elected me five times as Lok Sabha MP from here. Now, you elect Ravi Shankar Prasad as your MP,” Nitish exhorted people. Fatuha was earlier part of the erstwhile Barh constituency, which Kumar represented five times.

The axis of political friendships among four JP acolytes--Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Sushil Kumar Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad -- has undergone a change this time with Kumar, Sushil and Prasad teaming up against Lalu Prasad Yadav.

In the absence of his father Lalu Prasad, who is lodged in jail, his younger son Tejashwi Yadav is fighting a lonely battle in the electoral arena of Patna Sahib seat to defend Sinha. However, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had visited Patna and held a roadshow in support of Sinha.

The JP movement leaders have been at war with each other ever since Lalu Prasad Yadav became the chief minister of Bihar. When the issue of financial indiscipline in the animal husbandry department was raised by Kumar for the first time in early 1990s, other colleagues blamed him that the move would weaken the then Lalu Yadav government and provide a chance to the Congress to pull it down.

However, the financial indiscipline grew further leading to filing of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Patna High Court. In February 1996, two PILs were filed with the Patna high court and Ranchi bench of the Patna high court seeking CBI inquiry into the case.

The PIL in the Patna high court was filed by Sushil Kumar Modi, Saryu Rai, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Shivanand Tiwary. In the Ranchi bench, the PIL was filed by Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh and others. Later, both the PILs were clubbed and a Patna high court bench headed by Justice SN Jha and Justice SJ Mukhopadhyay ordered CBI inquiry into the fodder scam on March 12, 1996.

Prasad had also defended Lal Krishna Advani in court when he was arrested by the Lalu Yadav government on the directive of the then Prime Minister VP Singh.

With changing contours of friendship among followers of the JP, the battle of supremacy among them is being fought in the Patna Sahib constituency where they have once fought the pitched battle with the police and were caned during the JP movement.

While Prasad, a resident of Patna and son of former Bihar minister, claims that the Patna Sahib is a stronghold of the BJP, Sinha dismissed the claims made by the BJP. “Candidates of the CPI, Congress and RJD have won from Patna Sahib in the past. The social combination is not the way the BJP projects. I have been winning as Patnaites love and adore me,” Sinha said.

Unlike his ‘It is Namo everywhere’ rhetoric during 2014 polls, Sinha is acerbic against Modi this time saying, ‘Namo is nowhere’ and projects Lalu Yadav as the ‘grounded’ leader among all the JP acolytes. “After the election results are declared, Lalu Yadav will be released from jail,” Sinha told a motley crowd in the rural Patna in a bid to evoke sentiments in his favour.

Putting a spanner in the BJP efforts is another JP movement leader and BJP Rajya Sabha MP RK Sinha, who wanted to contest from Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency. However, the seat was given to Prasad. Since then RK Sinha is sulking and has not visited Patna to campaign for him. In fact, his supporters are trying to drive wedge among the Kayastha community.

Patna Sahib is an important constituency covering the urban areas of the state capital. All the candidates are well known names but they bank heavily on their party’s respective caste combinations. Since both the BJP and the Congress nominees belong to the Kayashthas in this urban constituency, their fate would depend on the quantum of Kayastha votes they are able to slice. Of the six Assembly segments, four are urban segments with heavy concentration of upper castes, while two are rural and semi-urban with mixed population.

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