Janata Dal (United) has declared the candidature of its Jharkhand State unit president Kheero Mahto for the single seat that it expects to win in the latest round of Rajya Sabha elections from Bihar, leaving Union Steel Minister R.C.P. Singh high and dry.
Mr. Singh, who is currently a Rajya Sabha MP, will have to resign from the Union Cabinet unless he can get BJP to send him to the Upper House. The BJP, however, on Sunday, has declared two candidates for the two seats it is likely to win from Bihar.
Mr. Singh had joined the Bihar cabinet in July 2021, during the last round of reshuffle. His induction had caused a lot of consternation within Janata Dal (United).
In 2019, the party had rejected the single berth that the BJP was offering citing proportional representation. Back then JD(U) had asserted that it needed four cabinet berths at par with the Bihar BJP nominees in the cabinet. But in 2021, Mr. Singh, who was then the party's national President, negotiated on behalf of the party. And to the dismay of everyone, he not only settled for a single berth but also secured it for himself.
Following this, there were no public congratulatory message from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Neither did he attend the swearing-in ceremony of his colleague. Party insiders saw this as a clear message to Mr. Singh on Nitish Kumar's disappointment.
Mr. Singh, who is a former IAS officer, had also served as principal secretary to Mr. Kumar. The two, having worked together, were considered very close.
‘Won’t tolerate insults’
The JD(U) decision to omit Mr. Singh is also being seen as a message to the BJP. The two allies who have been together since 1995 barring a small break post 2014, have been going through a tenuous phase. Mr. Kumar has asserted his commitment for a caste census, which makes the BJP deeply uneasy. It looks upon caste census as a divisive device that could fragment its United Hindutva vote on caste lines. Equally, he has been seen in company of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, including attending an Iftaar party hosted by him, making the BJP uncomfortable
The JD(U) meanwhile is clear that if the BJP renominates Mr. Singh from elsewhere to keep his position in Union Cabinet intact then the two allies will find it difficult to continue. "We have been tolerant but we won't take any insult lying down," a top ranking JD(U) MP said.