Patna: The announcement of businessman Amarendra Dhari Singh’s name Thursday as one of the two RJD candidates for Rajya Sabha elections, scheduled later this month, took most party leaders by surprise.
RJD MLAs, who were present when Singh filed his nomination papers Thursday, said they have never met him.
“I don’t know him. But since the party asked me to come and be present when Singh is filing his nomination papers, I came,” said RJD MLA Muneshwar Rai.
Sources said Singh, a Bhumihar, was named as the Rajya Sabha candidate at the behest of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
“The RJD is not just a Muslim-Yadav party. We give representations to all castes and religions,” said Lalu’s son and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Asked that Singh is unknown even to his own partymen, Tejashwi said: “Even a lot of ministers are not known. I remember reading a report in which an officer detained Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey (because he didn’t know that Pandey is a minister).”
An RJD MLA, who didn’t want to be named, said Singh’s name came as a “complete surprise” as they were made to believe that Rabri Devi, Lalu’s wife, would be sent to Rajya Sabha.
“We were made to believe that Rabri Devi would be sent to the Rajya Sabha. In fact, when (former JD(U) leader) Sharad Yadav went to Ranchi to meet Lalu Prasad (he is lodged in a Ranchi jail in connection with fodder scam cases) with the request for a Rajya Sabha seat, Lalu ji told him that it would be Rabri Devi who would be sent,” said the MLA, who was present when Singh filed his nomination papers.
A second RJD MLA, however, attributed Singh’s nomination to the fact that it’s election year and every party needs money.
“Every party needs money to fight polls. It’s good to have people with money to give financial support to a party,” added the MLA.
Bihar polls are scheduled for later this year.
Singh — a ‘self-made man’
The election affidavit of Singh shows he lives in Defence Colony in Delhi. A graduate from Kirori Mal College, Singh is unmarried.
His immovable property is worth Rs 188.57 crore and movable property is Rs 49.6 crore. He owns land, apartments and offices in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Mumbai. His income tax returns for the financial year 2019-20 was over Rs 24 crore, the affidavit stated.
Singh, according to his friends, is also involved in the export and import of fertilizers.
In 1991, an influential civil servant in Delhi had helped Singh obtain the licence for the import and export of fertilizers. Since then, Singh has been importing fertilizers for private companies and exporting them to the Middle-East and other countries of the former Soviet Union (USSR), said his friends.
“Singh is a self-made man who does clean business. I have seen him grow since the 1990s and he has never looked back. He donates for philanthropic causes and has always been helpful to his classmates,” said Singh’s friend Arindam Guha, who had studied with him in St Michael’s school, Patna.
Apart from Singh, Prem Chand Gupta is another Rajya Sabha candidate for the RJD. Gupta is a five-term Rajya Sabha MP and also a close Lalu aide.
Gupta is a co-accused in the IRCTC hotel scam along with Lalu.
In his election affidavit, Gupta has shown over Rs 120 crore-worth movable and immovable properties, which he shares with his wife.
Gupta’s name was expected as he is a close aide of Lalu.
Of the two seats, the Congress had claimed one on the grounds that the RJD had promised it during seat-sharing agreement ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year.
But the RJD refused to concede the seat.
“Both Lalu ji and Tejashwi requested Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi that it was difficult to give a seat to the Congress as the RJD has no presence in the Lok Sabha and it needed at least five MPs in the Rajya Sabha to show its presence in the Parliament,” a Congress leader told ThePrint.
“The party high command did not agree but they were preoccupied with problems in Madhya Pradesh and the RJD took advantage (of it) and announced the two names unilaterally and even got the two candidates to file their nomination papers,” the leader added.
Reacting to the RJD denying a seat to its ally, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who is from the BJP, alleged there is no democracy in the RJD.
“They use their workers and leaders to stage dharnas and protests in the name of democracy. But when it comes to giving seats in the Parliament, assembly and council, it is given to rich people. This time they have given a seat to a man whom even senior RJD leaders do not recognise,” he said.
The ruling JD(U) also faces similar allegations.
The second RJD MLA, quoted in the beginning, alleged the JD(U) sells Rajya Sabha seats for money. “Last time, they renominated Mahendra Prasad Singh who owns a pharmaceutical company and there are direct money transfers to the party fund,” claimed the MLA.
Rajya Sabha polls in Bihar
Five Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar will go to polls on 26 March. The last date for filing nomination papers is Friday.
The BJP has nominated Vivek Thakur, son of outgoing Rajya Sabha MP and former Union minister Dr C.P. Thakur.
The RJD, with 80 MLAs in the 243-member assembly, can win both the Rajya Sabha seats on the back of its own strength.