Lalan is JD(U) top post pick as Nitish tries to strike balance between loyalists

From being Karpoori Thakur’s aide to emerging as Nitish Kumar’s man Friday, Lalan Singh is a natural choice in Nitish’s attempt to strike a balance between loyalists of Singh and RCP Singh.

JD(U)’s Munger MP and Lok Sabha leader Rajiv Ranjan, also known as Lalan Singh, was on Saturday chosen as its national president at the party’s national executive meeting in Delhi. He replaces R C P Singh, who offered to step down after being inducted as a minister in the Narendra Modi government.

From being Karpoori Thakur’s aide to emerging as Nitish Kumar’s man Friday, Singh is a natural choice in Nitish’s attempt to strike a balance between loyalists of Singh and RCP Singh.

A Bhumihar leader, Singh has the image of a troubleshooter and is known for his organisational skills and wide connections across party lines. He has stood by Nitish Kumar since the beginning of their political career, barring the two years after 2009 Lok Sabha elections when he quit JD(U).

Singh, who is said to have recently played a role in splitting the LJP, also enjoys a good rapport with BJP. He was one of the five petitioners in the fodder scam case that eventually led to the conviction of Lalu Prasad. He is also known for his shrewd political skills and speaks very less to the media.

Once R C P Singh became Union minister, Lalan Singh was the obvious choice for the party post despite another strong contender — JD(U) parliamentary board chairman and former MP Upendra Kushwaha. The Bihar CM did not want to rush through a clear projection of Kushwaha, who had just returned to the JD(U), besides the fact that his appointment could have upset R C P Singh, who has long been the number 2 in the party organisation.

This is also the first time an upper caste has been appointed as the JD(U) national president though upper castes, including Bhumihar, are not known as the core constituency of Nitish Kumar, whose politics is woven around OBC, EBC and SCs.

Singh’s elevation is being seen as Nitish Kumar’s bid to rebuild the party organisation in a manner it could try to win over Bhumihars, besides nursing its core constituency. Singh may well be chosen to prepare ground for Upendra Kushwaha, who has already been touring Bihar. He is most likely to travel to UP soon where the party has been looking to expand its base with the presence of a sizable Koeri-Kurmi population.

However, the party decision could be a stop gap arrangement before its organisational polls next July. Kushwaha has time on his hands. So does Nitish Kumar.

(With PTI inputs from Delhi)

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