Alliance test on bypoll turf

Patna, Feb. 13: The Congress has fielded Anita Ram as its candidate for the by-election to the Kalyanpur seat amid attempts by the Lalu Prasad-led RJD-LJP combine to bring its estranged national ally back on board in Bihar.

The bypoll, necessitated by the death of JD(U)'s Ramsevak Hajari, would be held on February 24.

The BJP, on the other hand, has refrained from pitting its candidate for the seat in the wake of the war of words with partner JD(U) over the NDA's prime ministerial choice for the next general elections.

Hajari had won the seat in 2010. The JD(U) has fielded Manju Devi for the coming election. With this, the JD(U)-BJP alliance is intact.The Kalyanpur bypoll has hardly shown any sign of the Congress joining the Lalu Prasad-Ram Vilas Paswan alliance in the days to follow.

The seat falls in Samastipur district, the home of socialist icon Karpoori Thakur. It is also regarded a bastion of the socialists.

Senior Congress leader and AICC member Harkhu Jha, however, did not find it appropriate to say that there was no possibility of the party joining the RJD-LJP combination. "The Congress has fielded its candidate in Kalyanpur. But it should not be construed as the end of the issue. The Congress is still considering the pros and cons of joining hands with the Lalu Prasad led alliance. The specific meeting on the issue is yet to take place," he said.

"There is still the possibility of the Congress joining the Lalu Prasad-led alliance ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Bihar," Jha added.

The JD(U)'s Ramsevak Hajari, a socialist stalwart, had won the Kalyanpur seat in 2010 election with a huge margin of over 30,000 votes. Going by its track record, the JD(U) should comfortably retain the constituency.

But the residents are wary this time, particularly in the context of the fact that the JD(U) has denied ticket to any of the relatives of its departed law maker. Instead, Nitish Kumar's party has given ticket to Manju Devi, the wife of a former agriculture officer, Ram Vilas Ram.

Initially, the ruling party had chosen Ram as its candidate. But Ram's name figured in a case of scandal, prompting the JD(U) to pick up his wife instead.

Hajari's family members, particularly his son, Maheswar Hajari, who is the JD(U) MP from Rosera, are believed to have been opposing Manju's candidature. "The seat should have fallen in our share. The JD(U) leadership has done a great injustice by denying ticket to the kin of Ramsevak Hajari ' a towering leader of the socialist movement," said a relative of Ramsevak.

The LJP has fielded its previous candidate, Rekha Paswan, who had trailed second, securing over 30,000 votes, in Kalyanpur. Rekha is "hopeful" this time around with the stalwart like Ramsevak no more as her opponent and the JD(U) pitting a Mahadalit by snatching the seat from a Dalit. Ramsevak was from Paswan caste, a Dalit. Rekha has the backing of the RJD.

With Congress's Anita Ram joining the fray, the seat, like 2010, is set to witness a triangular contest. The by-election in Kalyanpur has generated much interest for it is taking place ahead of the by-election on the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat that too has fallen vacant in the wake of the RJD's Umashankar Singh's death and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Sources said all the senior leaders from their respective parties ' Nitish Kumar, Lalu and Ram Vilas Paswan ' were scheduled to hit the campaign trail in the next few days.

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