Bihar polls: Grand Alliance’s seat-sharing deal in final stages; RJD decides to contest 150
With the announcement of the three-phase assembly polls in Bihar, the Grand Alliance (GA) - comprising RJD, Congress, Left parties and smaller allies - is now inching closer to finalising a seat-sharing deal with talks now veering on seat-to-seat adjustment among the partners.
A formal announcement is likely to be made in the next few days before the nomination process for the first phase of polls begins on October 1. Sources said the RJD leadership is holding talks with the allies including Congress and has broadly reached a consensus on contesting 150 seats alone. The party has decided to offer 60 seats to the Congress.
This means, together, the RJD-Congress would contest 210 seats. The RJD is keen to allot around 20-25 seats to Left parties comprising the CPI-ML(liberation), CPI and CPM while the Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP), led by Mukesh Sahni, would be allotted eight to ten seats. Insiders in the GA said the ML, which had threatened of not siding with the GA for being offered only seven seats, is expected to get 12-15 seats while the CPI and the CPM may have to be contented with five seats each.
“The seat-sharing arrangement is almost final. There are certain hitches on a few seats among allies. It will be worked out soon and a formal announcement would be made in the next few days,” said a senior RJD leader. The new formula has been worked out after the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party(RLSP) led by former union minister Upendra Kushwaha indicated of leaving the coalition, a source said.
However, top sources in state Congress said a decision on the seat-sharing arrangement with the RJD would be finalised by the party’s high command after the three-member screening committee for Bihar polls, led by AICC general secretary Avinash Pande who came on a two-day visit to the state on Saturday, submits its report on eligible candidates for all 243 seats to Bihar-in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil in the next few days. Pande is also chairman of the Congress screening committee for Bihar polls.
“Once the screening committee submits its report, on eligible candidates after holding discussions with state leaders, to the Congress top leadership, a final decision on seat-sharing would be taken by party president Sonia Gandhi,” said a senior Congress leader, wishing not to be quoted.
There are reports that leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav is likely to hold talks with senior Congress leaders in New Delhi in next few days for wrapping up the seat-sharing deal. However, there is still a question mark on whether the Congress would settle for 60 seats or insist on more seats as the senior party leaders have been insistent on contesting at least 70-80 seats in alliance with the RJD in the coming polls. In the 2015 assembly polls, the Congress had contested 41 seats of which it won 27.
Sources in the Congress also said the party is keen on increasing its representation in 17 districts where the grand old party had not fought in the 2015 assembly polls and is negotiating hard with the RJD to get more winnable seats, especially in West Champaran, Darbhanga, Madhubani and Patna.
There are reports that the RJD has offered certain seats to the Congress where the party has a negligible base like Sheohar, Chanpatia and Bagaha (West Champaran), Belsand in Sitamarhi, Kalyanpur in Samastipur and four seats in Patna district namely Kumhrar, Digha, Bankipore and Patna Saheb.” All these seats are constituencies where the RJD lost in the last several elections and is offering them to the Congress. This will not be acceptable. We want seats where chances of winning are high,” said a senior Congress leader, wishing not to be quoted.
However, state RJD president Jagdanand Singh exuded confidence that the seat-sharing arrangement in the GA would be formalised soon. “ There is no problem in the seat-sharing arrangement in the GA and things are moving in the right direction,” he said. Singh also claimed that the GA was all set to put up a united front in the coming polls against the BJP-JD(U). He wondered why was there so much of delay in the seat-sharing deal in the NDA.
“Talks are progressing positively,” said Harku Jha, state Congress spokesperson when reached for comments on hitches in the seat-sharing deal between the RJD and the Congress.
Meanwhile, the left parties, especially the ML, the CPI and the CPM, claimed the talks were still on with the RJD on seat adjustment, insisting they were hopeful of getting a respectable share of seats.
“There is a forward movement in seat talks,” said ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. He did not comment on whether his party had been offered 12-15 seats in the latest round of talks.
CPM’s state secretary Awadesh Singh said things would be clear in next few days. “Our aim is to defeat the NDA. We want the RJD to respect our party’s base in terms of seat allotment,” he said.