Nitish Kumar will be the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar when the so-called Janata Parivar takes on a surging BJP in polls later this year, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said on Monday, ending months of uncertainty over a possible JD(U)-RJD alliance in the state.
The announcement came after late night negotiations at Yadav’s residence finally convinced Kumar’s archrival and RJD leader Lalu Prasad to accept the Bihar chief minister as the consensus CM candidate of the six-party coalition.
Sources said in return, the Rashtriya Janata Dal will get a higher share of seats during the polls, when the combine hopes to stop the BJP that flattened the Opposition in the general elections and has won a string of assembly polls since, barring the Capital.
"I want to assure the secular forces and the people of India that in this battle of Bihar, I am ready to gulp everything. I am ready to drink all types of poison to crush the hood of this snake, this cobra of communalism,” Prasad told reporters. He also said the Congress will join the JD(U)-RJD “secular” alliance in the state and invited the Left parties to join them.
Watch:Lalu Prasad says Nitish Kumar will be CM candidate for Bihar elections
“I am not myself vying for the job and there is no chief ministerial candidate within my family or party”, Prasad said, instructing party leaders to stop fanning controversies.
Sources said under the RJD would get 110-120 seats out of 243 and the JD(U) would be allotted 90-100 seats, leaving the remainder of the 243 assembly seats for the Congress and other alliance partners.
A six-member committee comprising three representatives each from the RJD and JD(U) are likely to thrash out a compromise over the next few days. “When a meeting of hearts had come about, the other issues would take care of themselves,” Prasad said.
The BJP dismissed the announcement and said the “Jungle Raj” of Lalu Prasad and Kumar’s lacklustre governance would return if the erstwhile socialist leaders were elected. But sources said party strategists are worried about the fallout of a contentious land acquisition bill and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s possibly waning popularity.
“We are convinced this papered-over alliance will crack with both Prasad and Kumar backstabbing each other. In any case, what is the news in this development? It was a foregone conclusion. Even today, Kumar is CM because of the mercy of Lalu Prasad and Sonia Gandhi,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
Party chief Amit Shah has chaired three poll meetings in the last fortnight but sources say the BJP fears a backlash from landowners who are afraid of losing their holdings and deep factionalism within the party has stopped it from announcing a CM candidate.
The decision comes a day after Kumar met Rahul Gandhi with the Bihar CM saying the Congress vice-president will play a crucial role in deciding the policies and political line of the new alliance. Sources said Kumar had used the Congress’ support to counterbalance Prasad’s leverage with Mulayam, whose grand nephew is married to the RJD’s chief’s daughter.
The alliance also dashed the chief ministerial hopes of former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was was trying to convince Prasad to ditch Kumar and ally with his Hindustani Awamo Morcha.
(With inputs from Anil Kumar and Binod Dubey in Patna)