Patna: The BJP in Bihar got a big boost Wednesday when all three MLAs of its ally, the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), met Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha and told him they’d be joining the party. With this move, the strength of the BJP in the Bihar assembly will shoot up to 77, overtaking the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which has 75 MLAs.
The three MLAs in question — Misri Lal Yadav, Raju Singh, Swarna Singh — went against the wishes of VIP chief, Bollywood set designer-turned-politician Mukesh Sahani, in their bid to join the BJP.
Sahani, an MLC and a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet in Bihar, has had a fractious equation with the BJP ever since the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections this year.
“We had made it clear to Mukesh Sahani that we would like to continue as an ally of the BJP. But he went on confrontation mode with the BJP,” VIP MLA Misri Lal Yadav told The Print.
With this move, Sahani is in a very sticky situation since his term expires in June, and the BJP, it is learnt, has already asked Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to sack him. According to VIP sources, he is likely to resign before he can be removed.
However, even after being left in the lurch by his three MLAs, Sahani, who has a support base in the Mallah (fisherfolk) community, is doing his best to project confidence.
“I appeal to my supporters not to be discouraged. We will build up the party so strong that in future polls, political parties will approach us for alliances,” he told ThePrint. “The BJP felt threatened by my growing popularity.”
BJP vs Sahani
The latest bone of contention between Sahani and the BJP was the bypoll to the Bochaha assembly seat in Muzaffarpur, scheduled for 12 April. The byelection is being held due to the death of VIP MLA Musafir Paswan, and Sahani had hopes of his party holding on to the seat.
According to JD(U) sources, Sahani was disconcerted when ally BJP fielded its own candidate from this seat. He then allegedly approached CM Nitish Kumar to convince the BJP to give the seat to the VIP, but did not get very far.
“Nitish Kumar told Sahani that in the 2020 assembly polls he came to the NDA through the BJP. He suggested that Mukesh Sahani should speak to central BJP leaders,” a JD(U) MLA told The Print. “The days of Mukesh Sahani as a minister are numbered,” he added.
Before the 2020 assembly polls in Bihar, Sahani was a member of the Grand Alliance, comprising the Congress, RJD, and other smaller parties. However, he walked out of this alliance when seat-sharing was announced and instead tagged along with the BJP, which allocated 12 seats to the party for the 2020 polls, of which it won four. Mukesh Sahani himself lost and was given an MLC seat.
Sahani, however, is taking a defiant stand. “In 2020, I did not go to the BJP. They made the offer. They fear that due to my popularity they may have to give me more seats,” he said.
The current contestants for the reserved Bochaha assembly seat have all followed a rather zig-zag path.
The BJP has fielded former MLA Baby Kumar, who was dropped in 2020 to accommodate the VIP.
Sahani wanted to field Amar Paswan, the son of the deceased MLA, but he has instead joined the RJD and is contesting on that party’s ticket.
The VIP has now fielded the daughter of the original RJD candidate and former minister Ramai Ram.
The UP fracas
The imminent ouster of Mukesh Sahani from the NDA is a direct impact of the 2022 UP polls.
Sahani not only fielded 49 candidates in UP, he also openly attacked BJP leaders like Yogi Adityanath in his rallies.
His party even ran a full-page advertisement asking people to give their votes to parties that could defeat the BJP.
“After what he said in UP, it is impossible to remain an ally with him even though we gave him seats in the assembly polls and made him a minister,” BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel said.
Regarding the Uttar Pradesh situation, Sahani said he had done nothing wrong. “My party contested the UP polls. But so did the JD(U). The BJP did nothing to them,” he added.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)