Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) President Lalu Prasad today said he would take any decision on extending support to JD(U) in the Rajya Sabha by-elections only after consulting his party legislators and well-wishers.
"Nitish Kumar had telephoned me yesterday to seek support for the two JD(U) candidates in the Rajya Sabha polls on June 19. I'll seek the opinion of RJD legislators and well-wishers over the issue and then take a decision," Prasad said.
JD(U) has fielded two candidates - senior leader Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi and diplomat-turned-politician Pawan Kumar Varma - for the RS polls on two seats. Its dissident MLAs, claiming to be around 50 in strength, have put up business tycoon Sabir Ali and real estate baron Anil Sharma as their candidates against the official ones. The support of 21 RJD MLAs becomes crucial for JD(U) to sail through in the polls and in this context former CM Nitish Kumar had yesterday appealed to RJD, Congress and CPI to extend their support in the polls.
In a House of 243, with an effective strength of 232 because of 11 vacancies, the ruling party needs 51 per cent votes of MLAs for victory of its candidates. JD(U) has 117 MLAs, including Speaker, BJP 84, RJD 21, Congress 4, CPI 1, Independents 5. With a large number of RJD legislators turning rebels and supporting Independents along with BJP, the vote of 21 RJD MLAs holds the key to the result in the bypoll.
Though Prasad refused to speak anything about his party's support to Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi during confidence vote and the ensuing controversy after a few JD(U) leaders claimed they had not sought RJD support, he pointed out that all was not well in Kumar's party.
"JD(U) MLAs have set their own house on fire and Nitish Kumar is now looking for fire brigade. What else could be said about the situation," Prasad remarked about the party that has been at loggerheads with him till the recent Lok Sabha polls.
The RJD chief left for Muzaffarpur in the afternoon to see kids suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and said the health of children was his top priority instead of politics. He said the ailing children should be sent by train to Delhi for better treatment.
"So many of our children are dying and nothing is being done to save them. They should be sent to New Delhi by trains as there is a dearth of treatment facilities in the state," he said.