With the Congress warming up to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, its vice president Rahul Gandhi has assured state leaders that the party will have its own pound of flesh if it strikes an alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for the upcoming assembly elections.
In his meeting with Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chowdhary and other senior leaders on Saturday, Gandhi is said to have told them that the party will “not succumb to any pressure tactics” this time and will strike a deal on its own terms.
“Rahul is for any such alliance where the allies are treated as equals and not as subservient,” a senior leader told HT.
Though the Congress favours a grand alliance of secular forces to stop the BJP from coming to power in Bihar, the party at the same time does not want the repeat of 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which Prasad dominated the seat-sharing part.
The RJD chief on both the occasions forced the Congress to accept the seats he offered and in 2014 Prasad is widely blamed for the exit of Ram Vilas Paswan from the UPA.
On their part, the state leaders told Gandhi that they would prefer to go with Kumar if they had to choose between the RJD and the Janata Dal (United). “We want to stop BJP in Bihar but not at our cost. Nitish Kumar is a popular leader than Lalu and is acceptable to different castes. He will be our chief ministerial candidate,” said another Congress leader.
At the meeting, the state Congress leaders also conveyed to Gandhi their displeasure with Prasad’s “high-handedness” in seat distribution for coming polls to 24 legislative council seats, elected from local authorities’ constituencies.
While the RJD and Kumar’s JD(U) are set to contest 10 seats each, the Congress had demanded Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Bettiah and Aurangabad seats where it stood second in the 2010 assembly elections.
But Lalu, who is upset with Congress over its growing bonhomie with the JD(U), has offered Bettiah, Purnia, Katihar and Kishenganj.