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Ending days of speculation and suspense, the Janata Dal (United) late on Sunday evening decided to field its candidates on all three vacant RS seats, the elections to which are scheduled on June 19. The decision was taken after a marathon meeting between party president Sharad Yadav and former chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The official nominees are Sharad Yadav, who lost to RJD's Pappu Yadav in Madhepura in the Lok Sabha elections, senior party leader Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi and Pavan Kumar Varma, former diplomat and cultural adviser to Bihar chief minister.
The dissident group within the party, however, said it would take a decision to field one or two parallel candidates on Monday. The rebels may extend support to Sabir Ali, a former Rajya Sabha member who was denied renomination by Kumar. He later joined BJP but had to quit immediately following vehement protests by senior BJP leaders over his alleged tainted past.
Earlier in the day, cracking the whip against the rebels, JD(U) on Sunday suspended Mahua MLA Ravindra Rai for six years for indulging in anti-party activities and tarnishing the image of the party leadership.
The suspension letter was issued by JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi nearly two hours after Rai and four other rebel MLAs had met party president Sharad Yadav to air their grievances.
Tyagi said Rai had been suspended for speaking against the party leadership and former chief minister Nitish Kumar.
"After the poll debacle Kumar had set a high moral standard by owning the responsibility for the defeat and installed Jitan Ram Manjhi as the chief minister. It was a rare act to empower the weaker section of society. But the rebels, including Rai, instead of consolidating the party, have been opposing the leadership," Tyagi told HT.
Rai, along with over a dozen rebel legislators, has been waging a verbal war against the leadership for induction of "undesired elements" in the council of ministers led by chief minister Manjhi.
The rebels have mainly targeted road construction minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh and demanded his expulsion from the party along with Rajya Sabha MP RCP Singh and party MLC Sanjay Gandhi.
In their meeting with the party president Sharad Yadav, who arrived here on Saturday night, nearly half a dozen rebel legislators vented their ire against the 'arbitrary style of functioning' of Nitish Kumar.
It is learnt that Yadav gave them a patient hearing and assured them that their grievances would be addressed by the party.
The rebel legislators, who met Yadav, included Poonam Devi, Gyanendra Singh Gayanoo, Ravindra Rai, Neeraj Singh Bablu and Anil Kumar. "The rebel JD(U) legislators also discussed their future course of action with Sharad Yadav," Rai claimed.
Rai said it was solely Kumar's decision to end the alliance with BJP last year that badly affected the JD(U) performance in the recently concluded general elections.