Dalit leader can be BJP's dark horse

A few months after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, when the Assembly elections took place in Bihar in 1985, the Congress had returned to power with a brute three-fourth majority.

Most of the opposition leaders forfeited their deposit. One person who could withstand Gandhi’s sympathy wave was Satyedeo Narain Arya, the BJP leader who won from Rajgir in Nalanda district.

Arya, who made his debut as a legislator from the Janata Party in 1977, has since won from this historical place for eight times. Barring 1990, when he lost to CPI’s Chandradeo Prasad Himanshu, he has never lost an election in the last 38 years.Sources in the BJP told Deccan Herald that if Arya wins for the ninth time, he may emerge as the dark horse for the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate.

“Given his seniority, respectability and acceptability within the party, Arya stands a fair chance for the top post in the state,” said a former BJP minister.

The Rajgir Assembly constituency comes under Nalanda, which is also the home turf of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. A soft spoken dalit leader, Arya served as Mines and Geology Minister in the Nitish regime, till the JD (U) called off its alliance with the BJP in June 2013.

“Arya’s seniority can be gauged from the fact that he was rural development minister in Ram Sundar Das government in the late 70s. This was much before Sushil Modi became an MLA for the first time in 1990,” Ramanuj Prasad, the BJP president in Silao mandal in Nalanda told Deccan Herald.

“If he wins for the ninth time, he could be handpicked for the top post as he not only enjoys cordial relations with BJP top brass, but could be the new prominent Dalit face within the NDA fold,” he added.

Local leaders in Rajgir argued that when Jitan Ram Manjhi was sworn in as chief minister in May 2014, a section within the BJP had suggested Arya’s name to be the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, so that the Mahadalits could not swayed by Nitish’s party. “But his drawback is he is so simple that he can’t lobby unlike his other BJP colleagues from OBC or upper caste community,” rued one of his close aides, refusing to be identified.

Arya’s popularity can be gauged from the fact that Nitish Kumar, while announcing the names of 242 candidates out of 243 seats, withheld the candidature for Rajgir seat. Eventually, he found a police officer who could give Arya a fight.

Nitish chose a 42-year-old police inspector Jyoti Kumar Ravi, who gave up khaki to don khadi.

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