Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United JD(U) will contest the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar as alliance partners, but issues of seat sharing and the choice of the grouping’s chief ministerial face remain unresolved.
The alliance prospects are expected to be clearer on Monday after Prasad’s scheduled meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
After a two-hour long meeting of the two leaders at Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence on Sunday, senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Ram Gopal Yadav said that a six-member committee would thrash out the seat sharing arrangement for Bihar. The committee will include three members each of the RJD and JD(U). “The choice of a chief ministerial candidate will be taken up later”, he said.
Both leaders, meanwhile, are exploring alternative alliance options. While Prasad has been flirting with Kumar’s protégé-turned-foe Jitan Ram Manjhi, Nitish Kumar called on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday morning to discuss the possibility of an alternative JD(U)-Congress tie-up.
The Congress vice-president favours a “grand alliance,” but has assured Kumar of the Congress support — as a second option, sources said.
Later, the Bihar chief minister separately met senior Congress leader Dr CP Joshi. Kumar’s meeting with Gandhi is being seen as pressure building tactics in his negotiations with the RJD.
In the interests of putting up a formidable front against the BJP, the Congress would be willing to accept an offer to contest just around 40 assembly seats, sources said. “Both Prasad and Kumar should sink their prestige to achieve a larger goal of defeating the BJP”, a senior Congress leader said.
After his discussions with the state party unit workers, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is understood to have conveyed to the party high command that the BJP was likely to achieve big gains in the assembly elections, in case the secular votes are allowed to get fragmented.