Before big battle for Bihar, a JD-U vs RJD face-off in Delhi next week
Patna: First-time Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha is the joint opposition’s candidate for the Rajya Sabha’s deputy chairman elections scheduled next week, setting up a face-off between the RJD and its prime rival in Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JD-U, people familiar with the matter said.
JD-U MP Harivansh, 64, has already been named by the National Democratic Alliance as its candidate for a second term as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman. Harivansh was first elected to the post in 2018 when he, as a first time MP, defeated the Congress’ BK Hariprasad who fought as the joint Opposition candidate. Over the next two years, the ruling BJP is only stronger than it was, up from 73 seats in the 250-seat house to 87.
The opposition’s decision to project RJD’s first-time MP Manoj Jha is seen as an effort to draw support from new quarters and, as one Congress put it, also send a strong message about opposition unity, irrespective of the outcome of the election. Jha entered the Rajya Sabha in Jha in April 2018.
The opposition had initially debated fielding DMK MP Tiruchi Siva but later, settled for Jha, possibly with the Bihar assembly elections in mind where the Congress and the RJD are two major constituents of the much-depleted Grand Alliance. Also, there is a hope that some regional parties that may not support the Congress would lean towards the candidate from the party founded by Lalu Prasad Yadav.
This would turn the RS deputy chairman post a RJD vs JD-U fight and an all-Bihar affair. Both Harivansh and Jha are RS MPs from Bihar.
Manoj Jha, 53, insisted that the election wasn’t just between two parties.
“It should not be seen as RJD vs JD-U as there are larger issues at stake relating to the health and well-being of the parliamentary democracy. It is not between two individuals. It is for a larger cause and it should be seen in that context,” said Jha
Jha is expected to file his nomination on Friday (September 11), the last date for filing nomination. The election will be held on September 14, the day the monsoon session of the Parliament begins. Harivansh, who held the post of deputy chairman till the end of his term, has already filed his nomination.
Manoj Jha’s name was proposed after the Congress decided to try for a larger opposition unity on the election of RS deputy chairman.
“This is a good sign that the Congress is thinking of opposition cohesion going beyond its own party with a long-term goal. It will send a positive message to the opposition parties that Congress is ready to walk an extra mile,” said a senior Congress leader.
A Delhi University professor, Jha has not completed even half his first stint in the Rajya Sabha, but is widely seen as a sharp critic of the centre and articulate politician, inside the House as well as on social media.
“The policies of the Narendra Modi government have hurt the people of all strata across the country and it got further accentuated by the inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the political parties supporting the BJP also have to think and we hope they will during the forthcoming RS election for the post of deputy chairman,” said Congress leader Premchandra Mishra.
For Jha to have a chance to scrape through, he would require support of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and YSR Congress, as the NDA with 116 members, is much closer to the majority mark.
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