Congress preps to go solo in Bihar as RJD declines ‘honourable’ seat deal
With the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) refusing to yield more than 60 out of 243 seats for the Bihar assembly elections, screening committee chairman of the Congress unit in the state Avinash Pande winded up his two-day exercise to gauge the party’s preparedness to meet any eventuality.
A day after asserting that the raw deal from the RJD might force the Congress to go it alone, Pande, also a former AICC general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, firmed up seat-to-seat plan of the party and shortlisted potential candidates for the upcoming polls, starting October 28, in case the RJD cold-shouldered its demand for a respectable number seats.
A Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee functionary said that Pande along with other seniors like BPCC chief Madan Mohan Jha, Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Sadanand Singh and chairman of the BPCC campaign committee Akhilesh Prasad Singh held a two-day marathon meeting with party seniors and to discuss and prepare the panel of ‘winnable’ candidates for all 243 constituencies.
A senior AICC leader said that the Congress, being a national party, was expecting a reasonable number of seats and an honourable deal with the RJD.
“The party may not settle for anything less than 70-75 seats,” said the leader who did not wish to be named.
Apparently embolden by a huge gathering of ticket seekers at Sadaquat Ashram, the BPCC headquarter, and senior leaders’ demands for an increased share of seats, Pande on Saturday delivered a clear message to the RJD that the Congress would no longer continue to play second fiddle in Bihar.
“In 2015 assembly polls, Congress won 27 out 41 seats allotted under the Grand Alliance with 66% success rate. The RJD had won 80 out of 101 and won 79% seats,” argued a former vice president of BPCC, adding that all GA partners should be ready to make small sacrifices if they were to defeat the NDA in Bihar. He also appealed to RLSP’s Upendra Kushwaha to review his decision to opt out of the GA and stay with it to safeguard interest of farmers, labourers and jobless youths.
AICC general secretary and former Union minister Tariq Anwar had also clarified that the party wanted 101 seats, which were contested by the JD (U) in 2015 under GA to be shared in equal proportions.
“Being a big partner, RJD has every right to claim the chief ministerial candidate. But, the Congress expects a respectable seat sharing deal with the RJD,” said Anwar, adding that the party might compromise some seats to accommodate like-minded allies.
Amidst the confusion prevailing over claims of seats in the GA, BPCC spokesman Harkhu Jha said that Pande has been given the mandate to identify the potential seats and probable candidates. “So far as the alliance is concerned, only the party high command and in-charge are authorised to decide on it,” said Jha.
The RJD wants to allot 60 seats to the Congress, while fielding its candidates on not less than 150 seats. The left parties and Mukesh Sahni-led Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are being offered 33 seats by the RJD under the GA.