The Lok Janshakti Party, a BJP ally in Bihar, on Saturday disapproved of contentious issues like the Ram temple and triple talaq being raised ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and expressed apprehension that deviating from the development plank could harm the NDA. LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan expressed the view at a press conference in the district, which comprises a part of his Lok Sabha seat -- Jamui. "Development should be the poll plank for the NDA, which, I am confident, will help the coalition win more than 35 of the 40 seats in Bihar. I am hopeful that the election will be fought on the issue of development and contentious issues like the Ram temple and triple talaq will be kept at bay.
These may harm the coalition's prospects," he said. The young MP, who is the son of Union minister and the LJP's founding president Ram Vilas Paswan, had expressed similar concerns last month after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost power in three of its strongholds -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Paswan's statement came at a time when the issue of triple talaq has thrown Parliament into a turmoil and another BJP ally in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), has refused to vote in favour of the bill in the Rajya Sabha after having abstained in the Lok Sabha.
Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contention that an ordinance on the Ram temple will not be brought ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the issue and the delay in a decision on the title suit in the apex court is being resented by the hardliners within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. Replying to another query, Paswan said the LJP's claim over the Munger Lok Sabha seat stood as of now. "Neither of our allies (BJP and JDU) has approached us, expressing the desire to contest the seat. But if we are asked to give up our claim on the seat and offered some other constituency, it will be duly considered," he added. Notably, Munger is represented in the Lok Sabha by Veena Devi, wife of mafia don-turned-politician Suraj Bhan Singh who is a national vice-president of the LJP. Singh has been fielding his wife in elections following his conviction in the murder case of former Bihar minister Brij Bihari Prasad in 2008.
Speculation has been rife that the Janata Dal (United) may insist on the seat for Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet, who had won the seat for his party in 2009, but had lost it to Veena Devi five years later. The JD(U), which had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha polls separately, returned to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2017. The pitch has been queered for the NDA constituents in the constituency, represented in the past by luminaries like Madhu Limaye, with dreaded Mokama MLA Anant Singh throwing his hat in the ring. Singh, who belongs to the Bhumihar caste like Veena Devi and Rajiv Ranjan Singh, has surprised all by expressing his desire to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Munger, even if it means taking on the Bihar minister whom he is said to hold in high esteem.
Once a loyalist of Kumar, Singh had quit the JD(U) ahead of the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls, voicing disapproval of the short-lived alliance with Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and had retained Mokama for the third consecutive term as an Independent. After having met state Congress election campaign committee chief Akhilesh Prasad Singh in Delhi last month, Singh had sung paeans to the RJD supremo and expressed his desire to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as a Grand Alliance candidate. He was, however, rebuffed by Prasad's sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav. Singh has, thereafter, declared that he will contest from Munger as an Independent and make all the other candidates lose their deposits.
(With inputs from agencies.)