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Rebel MPs in Bihar dial Congress, party says all lines are open

A resurgent Congress party, after the electoral triumph in three BJP-ruled states and return of former rebels like Tariq Anwar, is emerging as the favourite camp for Bihar politicians who are unhappy with their respective parties and considering defection.

Congress insiders said with the 2019 general elections approaching, the party’s state leadership is flooded with requests from rebels in other parties to “respectfully accommodate” them. They said the party that struggled to field winnable candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was now facing a problem of plenty.

The Congress currently has three Lok Sabha members from Bihar and 27 MLAs in the state.

A few top disgruntled leaders in BJP, LJP and Janata Dal (United) willing to defect, are looking up to Congress. While a few are already in talks, others are sending feelers.

Then there are some BJP leaders whose defection to Congress seems certain, but a formal announcement is awaited.

While Congress claims its national president Rahul Gandhi is acceptable to all allies, RJD is keen that their Grand Alliance goes to polls with its young leader Tejashwi Yadav as the face.

Insiders said that two sitting BJP MPs, Kirti Azad from Darbhanga, currently under suspension, and Shatrughan Sinha from Patna Sahib, who has been allegedly giving anti-party statements for a long time, are almost certain to join the Congress. It’s not yet clear if the BJP wishes to continue with the duo in LS polls.

Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad, suspended in 2015 for making public statements against Union finance minister Arun Jaitley over alleged corruption in Delhi District Cricket Association, has announced he will contest the seat again in 2019 whether or not BJP gives him the ticket.

Reports of Shatrughan Sinha joining the RJD had surfaced earlier but the Patna Sahib MP had a change of mind after close friends advised him to opt for Congress instead if he desired to defect as joining the Lalu Prasad-led party would annoy his upper caste voters.

A top Congress leader said Munger MP Veena Devi of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) was also in talks with Congress as her party’s alliance partner JD (U) was eyeing her seat to field Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh, who is water resources minister in the Nitish Kumar government. A defiant Veena Devi, however, recently said come what may, she would contest the Munger seat, refusing to divulge further.

Insiders said LJP’s Khagaria MP, Mehboob Ali Kaiser, is considering to return to Congress, as BJP is planning to field Rakesh Kumar alias Samrat Choudhary from his constituency. Denied ticket by Congress in 2014, Kaiser, a former state chief of the party, had joined the LJP days before the polls and won.

“Scores of rebels from various parties are in touch with us. We are ready to welcome them unconditionally. We will promise seats to them on merit and only after our old, committed workers are accommodated,” said Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha.

Senior leader and Katihar MP Tariq Anwar said, “It’s a good sign. We welcome people who are ready to render selfless service to party and society.”

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 10:16 IST

Article source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/patna/rebel-mps-in-bihar-dial-congress-party-says-all-lines-are-open/story-cEjoiKsiKnjX0hEEKBDHAP.html