No matter, how the media reads the defeat of senior BJP leader SS Ahluwalia’s defeat in the Rajya Sabha elections as a slap on the face of the party, Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda can see it as a sort of a reprieve for his government.
If Ahluwalia had won, his coalition would have collapsed immediately.
His victory would have meant the defeat of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha candidate. An upset JMM would have then surely walked out of the coalition with the BJP and into the hands of the Congress, which has been waiting for the collapse of the Munda government for a long time.
Even now, the coalition may be headed for a crisis of sorts. The Congress may still look to widen the faultlnes between the two coalition partners.
But it will take time and by then, Munda may work behind the scenes to soften JMM chief Shibu Soren.
Only a few know that Ahluwalia was originally offered the ticket to contest for the seat that had fallen vacant following the end of his tenure on April 2. But he wanted to shift from Jharkhand to Bihar.
But the BJP had to renominate its general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad. For the second seat from Bihar, BJP president Nitin Gadkari wanted to reward another general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan for his performance. There was a third seat in Bihar, which was vacant but the Janata Dal(U) was insisting that the BJP back its nominee to win the seat. So Ahluwalia could not be accommodated in Bihar.
So, those upset with Ahluwalia’s defeat are central BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj who had wanted to settle scores with Gadkari by insisting on Ahluwalia’s nomination from Jharkhand–after the row over letting London-based businessman Anshuman Mishra contest an independent candidate. Right from the beginning, as Munda tried to impress upon the BJP bigwigs, it was difficult to push for its nominee and it was better to allow an independent win the polls and then ensure he joined the NDA to boost its numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress had successfully pressed on the Election Commission to countermand the Rajya Sabha elections in the state on March 30 after a seizure of Rs 2.15 crore in cash from a car owned by the brother of independent candidate RK Agarwal.
Soon afterwards, Gadkari’s rivals ensured that Ahluwalia was given the ticket in the fresh election that was ordered by the EC.
Gadkari too despatched his trusted aides to Ranchi to see that Munda ensured he got the BJP’s 18 votes and 2 of the JD(U). So, Swaraj or Yashwant Sinha cannot blame Gadkari or Munda for the independents, who are not under the control of the BJP, voting for the JMM or the Congress under the sway of the influence of business houses backing them.
An angry JMM had earlier asked BJP to withdraw its candidate in favour Sanjeev Kumar but Gadkari rejected the call to ensure that Swaraj and her group was happy.
This time, Ahluwalia, the BJP’s outgoing deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, finished third with 20 votes — 18 of the saffron party’s and two of the JD(U).
Pradip Kumar Balmuchu, Jharkhand Congress president, won with 25 votes while the JMM’s Sanjeev Kumar secured 23. Balmuchu received 13 votes of his own party, five from the RJD and seven from independents including two who are supporting the BJP-JMM coalition government.
The JMM candidate got 18 of its own party’s votes and five from the All Jharkhand Students’ Union, a coalition partner of the government.
A total of 68 votes were polled in the 82-member house. Eleven members of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric), led by former chief minister Babulal Marandi, and the lone MLA of the CPI(ML-Liberation) abstained from voting.