Former minister Shyam Rajak (left) is welcomed into the RJD by Tejashwi Yadav Monday | Photo: ANI
Former minister Shyam Rajak (left) is welcomed into the RJD by Tejashwi Yadav Monday | Photo: ANI
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Patna: Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck Bihar, the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-BJP government seemed to be sitting pretty heading into the assembly elections later this year. But the way the pandemic has been handled has led to public resentment against the NDA government, something even the alliance’s leaders admit, leaving CM Nitish looking for new faces.

Over Sunday and Monday, this manifested itself in a spate of defections. Industries Minister Shyam Rajak was sacked and expelled from the JD(U) Sunday, and joined the opposition RJD. But three RJD MLAs — Maheshwar Yadav, Prema Choudhary and Faraz Fatmi — went the other way, joining the JD(U) Monday after being expelled by the RJD.

Commenting on the migration, BJP spokesperson Rajni Ranjan Patel told ThePrint, “Crossing over or migrating to other parties is not new in Bihar politics. Tickets are given to new faces entering the party on the basis of profile of the constituency and political weight of the aspiring candidate. Often new candidates or even old candidates standing on other party tickets dilutes the anger of the voters.”

Also read: ‘Sita equal to Ram’ — JD(U), RJD want Modi govt to now develop Janaki Janmabhoomi Sitamarhi

The case of Shyam Rajak

Rajak told ThePrint that he had heard that the JD(U) was not going to give him a ticket for re-election from Phulwari Sharif, and that he had been sidelined.

“I was being ignored by the JD(U). I was not even called for party functions held in my constituency Phulwari Sharif, which I have represented seven times,” he said, adding that he would resign from his assembly seat too.

However, sources in the JD(U) said the party had been uncomfortable with Rajak attacking the central government led by its ally, the BJP, on Dalit issues. Rajak had also lost his place as the Dalit face of the party to former Congress leader Ashok Choudhary.

The sources also indicated that a former MLA, Arun Manjhi, has been asked to prepare to fight the elections from Rajak’s seat. They added that there were indications about his ouster for the last two months, and when efforts to talk to Nitish failed, he went to Ranchi to meat RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and take his consent to switch parties.

A prominent RJD leader, who predicted many more defections from both sides, said, “The motive is political. Chirag Paswan is already openly criticising Nitish Kumar. Now with Shyam Rajak, a prominent Dalit face, joining in the Nitish-baiting, there should be an impact on Dalit voters.”

RJD’s exodus continues 

The three RJD MLAs who joined the JD(U) have been in contact with the ruling party’s leaders for months, sources said.

Maheshwar Yadav has been publicly criticising Lalu and his son and the party’s de facto leader Tejashwi ever since Nitish Kumar broke the grand alliance and joined hands again with BJP in 2017.

Prema Choudhary has praised Nitish on several occasions in the last year, while Faraz Fatmi’s father and former Darbhanga MP A.A.M. Fatmi joined the JD(U) last year.

“The move should not surprise anyone. All the three knew that they would not be given tickets this time by us,” said a senior RJD leader.

However, the exodus from the RJD is not new. On 23 June, five RJD MLCs joined the JD(U), due to which former CM Rabri Devi lost the status of the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council.

Since then, former minister Chandrika Roy, whose daughter has filed for divorce from Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, joined the JD(U), having quit the RJD earlier in the year.

Another former RJD MLA, Vijendra Kumar Yadav, has also followed suit.

“There are many more both from the Congress and RJD who will join. But that will be after the seat-sharing formula of NDA is worked out,” said a JD(U) leader who did not wish to be named.

The leader also did not rule out ‘reverse migration’ from his party to the RJD.

Also read: On its 24th foundation day, Lalu Yadav’s RJD stares at bleak future under his son Tejashwi

Loss of ideological commitment

Senior politicians blame the loss of commitment to ideology for the increasing number of pre-election defections.

“We became socialists with a conviction. But today, the only rule is winning. All political parties in our time use to hold camps for their workers and leaders, in which the party’s stand on various issues was discussed,” said six-time former MLA Ganesh Yadav.

“Today, most parties do not hold camps. Even when they do, it is usually in praise of the leader. It’s like a Satyanarayan Puja, where you sit hoping that prasad reaches you,” he said, adding that even hardcore socialists who had called the BJP a communal party have now joined it, among many other examples.

However, many politicians say pre-poll defection doesn’t impact votes. In the run-up to the 2015 polls, for example, there was a rush to join the BJP, and over a dozen ‘milan samaroh’ were organised in Patna to induct MLAs from other parties.

“But we gave tickets to very few of them. Tickets are given after taking into account the social configuration of the constituency. Many MLAs defect to other parties just to escape the anger of the voters,” said BJP spokesperson Patel.

Also read: There’s a new Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar & he’s doing everything he didn’t do in past 5 years


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