Dal gain at BJP fort ahead of LS polls

Patna, Jan. 15: Two former ministers of the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi regime ' Awadh Bihari Choudhary and Indradev Bhagat ' formally joined the JD(U) today, triggering speculation that Nitish Kumar is looking for suitable candidates to field in next year's Lok Sabha polls.

Both Choudhary and Bhagat come from Siwan that once used to be the citadel of don-turned-politician Mohammed Shahabuddin. In the last general elections, Independent candidate Om Prakash Yadav defeated the RJD's Shahabuddin, while the JD(U)'s Brishen Patel finished a poor third. Choudhary is a senior politician and was a minister in the Lalu-Rabri regime for 15 years. He represented Siwan town for five consecutive terms before being defeated by the BJP candidate.

Siwan was a BJP stronghold during the heydays of the Congress. At present, five out of eight Assembly seats in the district are with the BJP. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the JD(U) workers had complained that the support from the BJP in Siwan during the elections was "inadequate".

Announcing the inclusion of the two leaders, state JD(U) chief Basistha Narayan Singh said: "Their service would be used in the Adhikar Rally to be held in New Delhi on March 17." Choudhary stressed that he had put no pre-conditions for joining the JD(U). "I have not come here to be an MP or a minister. I will work as an ordinary worker," Choudhary said, adding that he was game for "any responsibility given to him by the party".

"In case the BJP-JD(U) alliance snaps, the JD(U) can have a candidate for the Goriakothi Assembly seat of Siwan, which is represented by the BJP at present," said a party legislator.

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