Shoumojit Banerjee

PATNA: The Janata Dal (United) has fielded veteran socialist leader George Fernandes as the party’s candidate from the State for the lone Rajya Sabha by-election, despite the fact that he had fought against the party in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

The 79-year-old Mr. Fernandes, barely able to walk, filed his nomination papers here in the State Capital on Thursday.

The Bihar seat had fallen vacant following the resignation of Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav who has moved to the Lok Sabha following his victory from Madhepura in the recent elections.

The move is widely viewed as an attempt by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to bring about a thaw in their relation which had gone astray after Mr. Fernandes had been denied ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election on grounds of “ill health”.

The firebrand leader had contested as an independent candidate from Muzaffarpur Parliamentary seat, losing heavily to Capt. Jainarain Nishad of the Janata Dal (U).

“I do not remember the past. It is all forgotten and there are no differences between us now,” said Mr. Kumar.

Mr. Fernandes had earlier rejected the party offer of a Rajya Sabha nomination while famously quipping that “socialists do not prefer sitting in the Upper House”.

Describing Mr. Fernandes as an “institution in himself”, Mr. Kumar said that senior party leaders “should be paid the respect that is due to them”.

“Though politics is usually considered to be a battlefield sans an ambulance corps, this should not be the case and one should respect elders even in this field,” said the Chief Minister.

The move has come as surprise to many as strong contenders like senior leader Bhim Singh, ex-RJD spokesman Shyam Rajak and Sharad Yadav’s aide C. K. Tyagi among others were bypassed in favour of Mr. Fernandes.