Suspension of JD(U) MPs: Is it too quick or too late a decision–or both?

By Soroor Ahmed

The suspension of three of its MPs by Janata Dal (United) is certainly an unusual decision. That the party leadership would take such a drastic action against two of its Lok Sabha representatives––the third one is Rajya Sabha member––within six months of ensuring their victory speaks of its conviction in dealing with indiscipline. At the same time it is a sad commentary on the quality of judgment made at the time of selecting them as the party candidates.

In normal course the elected representatives raise the banner of revolt a few years after their election. But in this case Jagdish Sharma and Purnmasi Ram, who represent Jehanabad and Gopalganj respectively and Dr Ejaz Ali, the Rajya Sabha MP, all started asserting themselves independently soon after entering the Hall of Parliament. No doubt Jagdish Sharma has the distinction of being member of the Bihar assembly for 32 long years (1977 to 2009) before getting elected to the Lok Sabha, yet his decision to put up his wife as an Independent candidate from Ghosi assembly seat––which he always represented––infuriated the chief minister. The latter publicly upbraided him during the assembly by-poll campaign in September and again after the defeat of party’s official nominee at the hands of Sharma’s wife––in fact the Janaa Dal (United) stood third as the RJD lost by a small margin. The chief minister had repeatedly accused Sharma of always
using terror tactic in winning election and hinted action against him.

Sharma, no doubt, has won all the elections even when stalwarts like Lalu, Nitish and Ram Vilas Paswan have lost from their constituencies at the peak of their career. Yet he is no match to them as his popularity is confined to a small pocket of Jehanabad district. He lacks the state-wide appeal and is not even the undisputed leader of his own caste, Bhumihar.

Purnmasi Ram paid the price as his son unsuccessfully contested the by-poll from the RJD, the main opposition party. He tried to wash his hands of by stating that the father and son can be in different parties in a democracy yet the party leadership saw an open defiance in his move.

Though the action of Sharma and Ram spoke louder they, till their suspension, had hardly used their words against the party leadership as such. But the party’s Rajya Sabha MP, Dr Ejaz Ali, is of a different mettle. Only a few months after getting elected to the Upper House on March 25 last year he started attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main alliance of the Janata Dal (United). It was more than a year back that he opposed the Janata Dal (United)’s decision to back Lal Krishna Advani as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. In December last year he supported the then Union Minority Affairs minister, A R Antulay, over what he said the deep conspiracy to eliminate the Maharashtra ATS chief, Hemant Karkare, and two other officials. Now after his suspension from the party Dr Ali is saying that it was Nitish Kumar, who approached him and sent him to Parliament in a bypoll necessitated by the death of RJD’s Moti-ur-Rahman. In fact Dr Ali’s candidature was not opposed by other parties.

Dr Ali, who enjoys the support of a large number of deprived Muslims, used his clout to openly campaign against the BJP in the last Lok Sabha poll. A couple of months before the parliament election he openly defied the party leadership at the meeting in Rajgir. The chief minister publicly opposed his view and made it clear that Lal Krishna Advani would be the prime ministerial candidate.

Incidentally, carried away by the euphoria of victory, the party did not take any action against Dr Ali after the parliamentary election. It decided to crack its whip against him 10 days before the November 1 conference organized by him. He had invited the expelled BJP leader, Jaswant Singh, to speak on his book on India’s partition. What is even more shocking is that he has invited the RJD chief Lalu Yadav and LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan. True, he personally met the Janata Dal (United) president, Sharad Yadav, to extend invitation for November 1 function and tried to meet Nitish––who did not give time––yet there is no denying the fact that Dr Ali had repeatedly been embarrassing the Janata Dal (United) leadership. The latter was also under pressure from the BJP to take action against him. Dr Ali’s Rajya Sabha term ends next March.

It may be true that Nitish took a hard stand against the three MPs yet it is fact that they belong to different social groups. The chief minister has been courting these groups for the last four years. Nitish tries to send the message that he is a no-nonsense man, who brooks no anti-party activities. He wants to convince the people that there is no space for dynastic politics in his party, though it is also true that one of the reasons for giving Dr Ali a Rajya Sabha berth was that he was the son-in-law of the former RJD minister, late Ghulam Sarwar.

Unlike Lalu, who in 15 years in power never suspended or expelled any Muslim leader––some of them left on their own––Nitish never hesitated in taking action against Dr Ali––or even for that matter Jagdish Sharma and Purnmasi Ram––and thus refused to buckle under any pressure, caste or communal. With the assembly election a year ago it is too early to predict the political ramifications of the move. However, one thing is clear the recent humiliating defeat of the party in the by-poll for 18 assembly seats has taught the leadership a bitter lesson.

(Soroor Ahmed could be contacted on


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