Patna, June 19 (IANS): Voting in the by-election for two Rajya Sabha seats from Bihar began today with nearly a dozen rebel legislators of the ruling JD-U voting for two independent candidates instead of the party's official nominees, a leader here said.
"We have definite information that nearly a dozen rebel party legislators voted for independent candidates," a Janata Dal (United) leader said.
The JD-U faces a tough task to ensure that its nominees -- Pavan Verma and Ghulam Rasool Balyavi -- win the by-elections amid some of its rebel legislators announcing they will support two independent candidates -- Sabir Ali and Anil Sharma.
"Cross-voting in the by-election is along expected lines as the opposition BJP is encouraging it by backing rebel JD-U legislators and allegedly using money power," another JD-U leader said.
However, top party leaders, including national president Sharad Yadav and former chief minister Nitish Kumar, were confident after Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad announced his party's support to the JD-U candidates.
Lalu Prasad said his party will support JD-U's nominees to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party's game plan.
It was probably for the first time in two decades that Nitish Kumar publicly sought support from the RJD chief after he and Lalu Prasad parted ways in 1994.
Lalu Prasad's decision to support JD-U is seen here as the first step towards a likely realignment of RJD-JD-U to take on a surging Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar, despite reservations expressed by some RJD legislators and senior leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.
The 243-seat house has a current strength of 233 members. The ruling JD-U has 117 legislators and is supported by one Communist Party of India legislator, two independents, four Congress members and 21 RJD legislators. The BJP has 84 members and enjoys the support of three independent legislators.
The by-polls were necessitated by the election of Lok Janshakti (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy and former RJD general secretary Ram Kripal Yadav to the Lok Sabha.
JD-U president Sharad Yadav was last week declared elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha. Yadav had earlier lost the recent Lok Sabha election from Madhepura constituency in the state.