RJD-Congress close to sealing seat talks in Bihar, announcement soon
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress are close to sealing their seat-sharing agreement for the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar, people aware of the matter said.
As per the fresh proposal, the Congress will contest on 70 seats, the left parties on 29 and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahani on 11.
Out of 243 seats, the RJD will field its candidates on 133 seats.
A formal seat-sharing announcement will be made in the next few days after the six constituents of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance identify their respective seats, a Congress leader said.
A few last-minute adjustments in the final agreement are not ruled out.
The three left parties - Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninst) – have been accommodated in the grand alliance following the assessment that the decision to keep them out in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections had hurt ‘mahagathbandhan’ in many constituencies by dividing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) vote.
There was also an assessment in the opposition alliance, especially by the RJD, that Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi brought “no value addition” to ‘mahagathbandhan’ and that their votes were non-transferable. Both eventually exited the grand alliance.
The Congress leader quoted above said the identification of seats will by and large be a “smooth affair” barring “minor hiccups” in some constituencies on which the respective alliance partners claim to be strong.
He said the differences between the two parties over seat distribution were sorted out after Congress president Sonia Gandhi conveyed that her party would not settle on less than 70 seats.
The talks between the RJD and the Congress in Bihar had hit a rough patch over the distribution of seats with both sides unwilling to relent on their respective positions.
While the RJD had offered 58 seats, the Congress was demanding 75. The matter had then reached Gandhi’s doorsteps.
Another Congress functionary said Gandhi had also taken strong exception to remarks made against the RJD leadership by some of her party’s Bihar and central leaders and firmly asked them to desist from making such statements at a time when all like-minded parties had decided to join hands in “fighting and uprooting” the NDA government from Bihar.
One such statement was made on Friday by Congress party’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil who called RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav “inexperienced” and “susceptible to be misguided” by others.
The RJD responded by saying that Gohil should keep in mind the relations between the top leadership of the two parties and that its supremo Lalu Prasad had stood by Gandhi when she was under attack not only from her political rivals but also her own party leaders on the foreign origin issue.
A senior RJD leader said his party had in the first week of September offered 73 seats to the Congress after conducting a survey on all the 243 seats and also expressed willingness to accommodate smaller parties from its quota.
At that time, the Congress had conveyed to the RJD that it will revert within a week but finally got back with a demand for 75 seats on September 26, he added.
But the matter worsened after Congress leader Avinash Pande, who heads the party’s screening committee for Bihar, stated that the alliance with the RJD will be firmed up only if there is a respectable understanding between the two parties.
A screening committee shortlists the party candidates and forwards the list to the central election committee for the final selection after discussion on each name.
Pande’s statement prompted an angry RJD to scale down its offer to 58 seats. It also decided to let the Congress fight the by-election to Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha constituency.
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