Mukesh Sahni back in Bihar’s RJD-led alliance, his party to contest 3 LS seats

Patna, Apr 5 (PTI) Bihar’s opposition Mahagathbandhan on Friday claimed to have received a shot in the arm with the return of former state minister Mukesh Sahni, who had been in political wilderness after being disowned by the ruling NDA.

Sahni, who heads Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP), was welcomed into the coalition by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who also announced a “respectable” share of three Lok Sabha seats for the fledgling party from “our own quota of 26 seats in Bihar”.

“RJD president Lalu Prasad has decided to give Gopalganj, Jhanjharpur and Motihari (Purbi Champaran) to VIP. Together, we shall ensure Mahagathbandhan’s victory in all 40 seats of Bihar,” Yadav asserted.

Sahni, who had in 2020 quit Mahagathbandhan accusing Yadav of having “backstabbed” him ahead of assembly polls, brushed aside the episode as “a skirmish with my younger brother Tejashwi”.

Thanking the RJD leader for assigning the VIP the same number of seats it had fought in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Sahni alleged, “The BJP stabbed me in the chest. I helped them form a government in the state and they got me ousted from the cabinet and weaned away all my MLAs.”

A Bollywood set designer-turned-politician who uses the pseudonym “Son of Mallah”, Sahni champions the cause of “Nishad samaj”, an umbrella term that denotes various castes and sub-castes involved in the business of fishing.

He alleged that the BJP has “gone back on its promise of according Scheduled Caste status to Nishad Samaj. My brethren have pledged to punish the party, in the name of Mother Ganges”.

Sahni, who had in 2019 contested from Khagaria, which has now gone to the CPI(M), said he will take a call on which seat to fight after discussions in his party.

Tejashwi Yadav, who is also a former deputy chief minister, said, “We have formed this alliance keeping in mind not just Lok Sabha polls, but also the assembly elections, which may take place sooner than expected, given Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s increasingly unpredictable behaviour.”

Kumar, who heads JD(U), returned to the NDA in January this year, calling off the alliance with Mahagathbandhan that lasted 17 months, and giving up the INDIA bloc he had helped form by holding parleys with parties opposed to BJP across the country and hosting their first meeting in Patna.

Yadav also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Bihar on the previous day and observed, with a chuckle, “my social media post about political dynasts fielded by the NDA in the state has gone viral. No wonder the PM avoided launching into yet another diatribe against parivarvad”.

Yadav also bristled at Modi’s remark that the era of LED bulbs has made obsolete the lantern, a reference to the RJD’s poll symbol.

The RJD leader said, “Lantern stands for dispelling darkness. He would do well to use his wit for ally JD(U) and ask it to give up its symbol, the arrow, and replace it with a missile. The BJP’s own symbol may be phool (lotus flower) but the party is known for making fool of the public.”

Meanwhile, BJP national spokesman Syed Shahnawaz Hussain reacted to Sahni’s return to Mahagathbandhan.

He said that “the development highlights the confusion in the opposition coalition which is still figuring out who are its allies. In contrast, the NDA has even announced candidates for all the 40 seats which we are poised to win”.

Incidentally, Sahni had joined the NDA after a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and though he failed to win his own seat in assembly polls, he was backed for a ministerial berth by the BJP which also got him elected to the legislative council.

However, the BJP got Sahni expelled from the state cabinet after he ruffled many feathers during the campaign for assembly polls in adjoining Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP also weaned away all four Bihar MLAs who had got elected on VIP tickets.

In the ongoing elections, the BJP has fielded a former close aide of Sahni, Raj Bhushan Nishad, from Muzaffarpur seat, dropping two-term MP Ajay Nishad who has revolted and joined the Congress.