Barely a day after the announcement of the grand alliance to take on the BJP-led NDA in Bihar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has threatened to walk out of the coalition accusing the big parties of making unilateral decisions.
The NCP indicated on Wednesday night that it may pull out of the so-called secular alliance in Bihar, just hours after NCP chief Sharad Pawar held a meeting of all regional parties, including Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), at his Delhi residence.
The bonhomie of a 'chai pe charcha' among the NCP, Samajwadi Party and the JD (U) turned sour since the Pawar-led party was offered just three seats for the Bihar assembly elections slated for mid-October. Of the total 243 seats, the ruling JD (U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal will contest in 100 seats, and the Congress will fight for 40.
At the meeting at Pawar's residence - also attended by the Trinamool and the National Conference - the regional parties had reportedly decided to give another try for a federal front and extended support to the anti-BJP alliance in Bihar.
But, the seat-sharing formula seems to have disrupted the NCP's equations.
NCP leader Tariq Anwar said he had convened a meeting of party leaders to decide the future course of action. He added the party could even go alone in the state.
"I wanted to be with the JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance, but... they don't want the NCP," Anwar said.
"We have always advocated an alliance to stop the BJP, but it does not mean we will compromise with our dignity. If the alliance does not need us, we will look for other options. We have fought alone earlier also and that may happen again this time," said Anwar, adding offering three seats was akin to "insult with the party and was totally unacceptable".
An angry Anwar told HT that the party would not accept anything less than 12 seats.
"Bare bhai (Lalu Prasad) and chhote bhai (Nitish Kumar) have distributed the seats among themselves. Congress put pressure and so it got a good bargain. We were ignored as we did not speak up. This is no way of stitching an alliance," he added.
When chief minister Nitish Kumar announced the seat sharing plan on Wednesday, there was no mention of the NCP though it was later presumed that the remaining three seats would go to it. The Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav, which had fielded candidates in last assembly elections, has also got no seat in the grand alliance.
Anwar said it was apparent that both JD(U) and RJD do not require any Muslim or Dalit face in Bihar. "They seem to have taken Muslims for granted. They feel Muslims would be under compulsion to vote for them to defeat the BJP," he added.
"Though defeating the BJP has always been the main focus of our party, this does not mean we will go with anyone even if we are made to feel unwanted. Nobody consulted us before the announcement."
"The NCP has called a party workers' meeting on August 16 and we will collectively take a decision on our next step, but nothing less than 12 seats will be acceptable to us," he added.
Anwar said he had apprised NCP chief Pawar of the developments and even he was surprised. "We had expected a fair game and reasonable distribution of seats, though we never put any condition. But what has happened in the grand alliance is not worth accepting and that does not augur well," he added.
NCP spokesperson Anil Kishore Jha said the party would soon come out with its action plan for Bihar elections.