New Delhi/Patna: The Janata Dal (United) on Saturday came out with its new list of national office bearers, approved by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who took over as the party president less than a month ago.
Veteran socialist leader Vashishth Narayan Singh, a close aide of Kumar who stepped down as the state unit chief three years ago citing health reasons, has been made the national vice president.
Singh, whose friendship with Kumar dates back to the 1974 students’ movement in Bihar led by Jayaprakash Narayan, replaces Mangani Lal Mandal who in March last year became only the second leader to have been made the JD(U)’s vice president after former poll strategist Prashant Kishor who was given the top post in 2017.
Mandal has been made a national general secretary.
The party’s most visible face in the media, KC Tyagi, has been designated as “political advisor and spokesperson”.
The other spokesperson in the list is Rajib Ranjan, a former MLA from the CM’s home district of Nalanda, who returned to JD(U) last year after quitting the BJP, though he has been stripped of the post of national general secretary he had been holding so far.
The number of national general secretaries has been trimmed down to 11, compared with 22 in the previous list that came out in March last year when the party was headed by Rajiv Ranjan Singh “Lalan”, who stepped down last month to concentrate on his Lok Sabha seat Munger, amid rumours that he had grown too close to ally RJD.
Lalan’s name does not figure in the new list of office bearers, though he is said to continue to enjoy the trust of Nitish Kumar whom he has accompanied at all meetings of the INDIA bloc so far.
Sanjay Kumar Jha, who besides Lalan is the only leader to accompany Kumar at such meetings, has been retained as a national general secretary.
Jha is the only Bihar minister to figure in the list of national general secretaries.
Others who have been retained to the key post include Rajya Sabha member Ram Nath Thakur, whose late father Karpoori Thakur had served as a CM and been a mentor to the likes of Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.
In an apparent signal to the minorities, Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi, Afaque Ahmed Khan and Kahkashan Parveen have also been retained as national general secretaries.
While Khan has been an old JD(U) loyalist, Fatmi, a former Union minister, joined the party in 2019 when he quit the RJD alleging brusque behaviour by Tejashwi Yadav, who is now the Bihar Deputy CM.
Parveen’s claim to fame was her election to the Rajya Sabha in 2014, at the young age of 35, which was viewed as Kumar’s attempt to endear himself to the minorities after having snapped ties with the BJP.
However, another prominent Muslim member Ghulam Rasool Baliyavi has been dropped from the new list of national general secretaries.
Kapil Harishchandra Patil, a member of the Maharashtra legislative council, known to be a loyalist of late leader Sharad Yadav, who headed the JD(U) for the longest period of time but had severed ties with the party towards the end of his career, has also been retained as general secretary.
Conspicuous by their absence in the list of general secretaries are five sitting Lok Sabha MPs, which, according to party insiders was “aimed at enabling them to focus on the upcoming elections”.
Alok Kumar Suman, the MP from the reserved Gopalganj seat, has been retained as the treasurer, becoming the only sitting Lok Sabha member in the new list of office bearers.
The list also includes six national secretaries, including Sunil Kumar alias “Engineer”, a former MLA from Harnaut which Nitish Kumar had represented in the 1980s. Engineer was among the 22 leaders appointed as national general secretaries last year. Among other national secretaries is Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, who can be often seen representing the party in debates on news channels.
Gangster-turned-politician from adjoining Uttar Pradesh, Dhananjay Singh, who was named a national general secretary last year, has been dropped from the new list.