With the Sharad Yadav-Nitish Kumar duo having pushed him into a corner in the JD(U) which was once ruled by him, a desperate NDA convenor George Fernandes on Sunday signalled his loyalists and disgruntled elements to revolt against them and revive the defunct Samata Party.
The move marks a step forward in Fernandes’ strategy to keep up pressure from within on JD(U) president Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Kumar while continuing to be in the party. With nothing left to lose, the veteran socialist leader has obviously decided to be a thorn in the flesh for them.
The younger leaders, who have a stranglehold on the party now, are caught in a difficult situation as they cannot take disciplinary action against him as it would lead to an embarrassment not only for the JD(U) but also the main Opposition alliance NDA of which they are a part.
Besides, any move to expel Fernandes would only be to his advantage as it would enable him under the electoral law, to retain his membership of the Lok Sabha seat from Muzaffarpur.
While Fernandes himself stayed away from the public meeting convened on the lawns of Vithalbhai Patel House to “relaunch” the Samata Party which was headed by him before being merged with Yadav’s JD(U), his close associate Jaya Jaitley and other trusted lieutenants were all present in it.
Led by JD(U) general secretary and spokesman Shiv Kumar and senior leader Aneel Hegde, several other leaders and workers from various states left the party to join the Samata on the occasion. These included the Gujarat party unit president Praveensinh Jadeja, Andhra Pradesh unit chief Narasimha Reddy, Uttarakhand party chief Anurag Kumar and suspended party MLA from Bihar Chhedi Paswan.
Also present on the occasion was former MP Brahmanand Mandal, the current president of Samata Party who had refused to join the JD(U) at the time of merger.
Jaitley, who had to resign as Samata Party president after the Tehelka expose of defence deals scam, told the gathering that though Fernandes had not come for the meet, he was still “present” there in the hearts of the party rank and file.
“The former members of Samata in the JD(U) have come here to reaffirm their faith in Fernandes and I have come to welcome them,”she said. Stating that his blessings were with his supporters, Jaitley told them they would appeal to him to join the Samata Party.
A resolution passed at the meeting deplored that JD(U) leadership had been “captured through bogus elections” and the party had ceased to function as a “democratic, active and dynamic” organisation that could raise the issues of the poor and underprivileged. Shiv Kumar and other speakers attacked the Nitish Kumar Government in Bihar alleging ineffective governance and poor law and order situation.
Plans are now afoot to field Samata candidates in the forthcoming Assembly polls in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. The rebels’ gameplan is apparently to spoil things for the JD(U) leadership which plans to contest elections in these states with the hope of making marginal gains.
JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, meanwhile, refused to make any comment on the rebels’ move saying they were not “worth it”.