Union Minister Giriraj Singh, sulking for weeks over being asked to change his seat in Bihar, has finally agreed to contest from Begusarai, where he will face former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar in next month's national election. It took BJP chief Amit Shah's intervention to pacify the leader, who had recently said his that his "self-respect was hurt" after the party moved him from his parliamentary constituency Nawada.
Amit Shah said in a tweet that Giriraj Singh's grievances were heard and would be resolved by the party. "Shri Giriraj Singh will contest the Lok Sabha election from Bihar's Begusarai. I have heard his problems and the organisation will find a solution for them. My good wishes for the election," he tweeted on Wednesday evening.
Giriraj Singh, a central minister notorious for pronouncing critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-led government as "anti-national" and asking them to "go to Pakistan", has swallowed his grudge, for now. He has agreed to start his campaign in Begusarai after refusing for days to budge from Delhi, where he registered daily protests to his party bosses.
The BJP is contesting in 17 of the 40 seats in the state. An equal number of seats are being contested by its ally, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United. Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is contesting in the remaining seats, has been given Giriraj Singh's Nawada in its share of seats.
Giriraj Singh, 66, had gone public with his resentment. "My self-respect is hurt that no other MP's seat was changed in Bihar. It was decided without talking to me. State BJP leadership should tell me why it was done. I've nothing against Begusarai but I can't compromise with my self-respect," he was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.
Many in the Bihar BJP are surprised at Amit Shah's move to mollify the upset leader. But Giriraj Singh is believed to have close ties with both PM Modi and Amit Shah.
When Amit Shah was banned from Gujarat in 2010 while he was in Bihar, it was Giriraj Singh who hosted him.
He is known to get away with unabashedly polarising public speeches. In 2014, after the elections, he had said in Jharkhand that those who didn't vote for PM Modi "should be sent to Pakistan".
Discomfited by his speeches, Nitish Kumar had reportedly told Amit Shah last year that he would not brook such statements.
In Begusarai, Giriraj Singh faces a prominent rival, Kanhaiya Kumar, one of Bihar's most-watched candidates for the election.
The 32-year-old firebrand former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union leader is fighting his first-ever election, as a candidate of the CPI. He is using all his oratorical and crowd-working skills to appeal for support in the form of donations.
The national election will be held across the country between April 11 and May 19. The results will be declared on May 23. Bihar, which has 40 seats, will vote in all seven rounds.