Finally, the wily Yadav is laughing his head off to the polls. As the face-off is coming closer, the small battles that RJD chief Lalu Prasad has been winning since he got out of jail in December are adding up to a big win.
His somewhat distant ally, the Congress, which haggled endlessly with him over seat sharing – it’s not a gathbandhan (alliance), but a lathbandhan (hostile ties), he said at one point – is now finding it hard to get enough winnable candidates from among themselves.
Prasad chipped in with four names — two of them are Yadavs and close to him – and the Congress had to swallow the ego of a national party and accept them. Now, Prasad, who had been given 27 seats, will effectively fight from 31 seats and, that too, in important constituencies.
A top state Congress leader agreed: “It was on his insistence and clout that the Congress has put up Sanjiv Prasad Tony from Hajipur, Kunal Singh from Patna Sahib and former DGP Ashish Ranjan Sinha from Nalanda. What’s more, he made the Congress accept former JD(U) leader Purnamasi Ram for Gopalganj.”
Former state party chief Ram Jatan Sinha said the Congress initially kept the RJD waiting, but now, “finding the Congress vulnerable because of the BJP’s popularity, Prasad is not only deciding the alliance’s future, but also having some say in the candidates that the Congress should put up”.
He said Prasad’s growing influence over the Congress could be gauged from the fact that the Congress was not only restricted to 12 seats against its original claim of 15, but the party was forced to accept the seats where it had little scope to win.
Prasad’s clout, as expected, has evoked both surprise and consternation in the Congress camp. Workers are questioning the party’s peculiar stance on seat allocations, pointing out that despite there being no dearth of candidates, the party is playing into Prasad’s hands.
Bihar Congress chief Ashok Choudhary, however, defended the state unit’s surrender: “Now that it (the alliance) has happened, we have to see that the Congress does not fail in its commitments. I have maintained my calm because I am the one who has to show results.”
But a Congress dissident said on condition of anonymity: “I wonder why the Congress fought so bitterly with Prasad for more than a fortnight to increase its seat share from 11 to just 12 seats.”
The Congress disquiet is so loud that a section of Congress men are blaming the leadership for losing Ram Vilas Paswan. Senior leader Kripanath Pathak said, “Had the Congress allowed Paswan to fight three more seats, his EBCs would have added to the UPA’s clout and limited Narendra Modi in Bihar.”
He said keeping back Upendra Kumar Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party – which has walked out of the UPA – by giving it not one but two seats would have further added to the UPA clout.