The matter has now reached Congress president Sonia Gandhi(Mohd Zakir/HT File Photo)
The matter has now reached Congress president Sonia Gandhi(Mohd Zakir/HT File Photo)

Bihar assembly election 2020: Congress, RJD in impasse over seat sharing in Bihar

Things worsened after Congress leader Avinash Pande, who heads the party’s screening committee for Bihar, stated that the alliance with the RJD would be firmed up only if there is a respectable seat-sharing understanding between the two parties.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
UPDATED ON SEP 30, 2020 02:21 AM IST

The alliance between the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress in Bihar has run into rough weather over the distribution of seats in the upcoming assembly elections, with neither side willing to relent on its position, people aware of the development said on Tuesday.

While the RJD’s latest offer is 58 seats in the 243-member House, the Congress is demanding 75, leaders of the two parties said on condition of anonymity.

The matter has now reached Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is expected to take a call in a day or two after consulting other senior leaders.

Bihar Election 2020: Full coverage

A Congress functionary said both sides have in principle decided to fight the October-November elections in an alliance and are also keen to accommodate the three left parties, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) besides the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahani. But getting to a deal has been tough.

A senior RJD leader said his party, in the first week of September, offered 73 seats to the Congress after conducting a survey of all 243 seats and also expressed a willingness to accommodate smaller parties from its quota.

At the time, this person added, the Congress told the RJD that it would revert within a week, but finally got back with a demand for 75 seats only on September 26, he added.

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Things worsened after Congress leader Avinash Pande, who heads the party’s screening committee for Bihar, stated that the alliance with the RJD would be firmed up only if there is a respectable seat-sharing understanding between the two parties.

A screening committee shortlists the party candidates and forwards the list to the central election committee for final selection.

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 the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar.

A second Congress functionary said the RJD offer was “in no way” acceptable to his party and that now, party president Sonia Gandhi to take a call on the alliance. “She will consult other senior leaders and a decision is expected within a day or two. In the past too, during {jailed RJD chief} Lalu Prasad’s time, she saved the alliance with the RJD from the brink of collapse on several occasions,” he added.

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The exit of Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) from the grand alliance or ‘mahagathbandhan’ on Tuesday eased the pressure on both sides.

While the RJD wanted the RLSP to leave, the Congress was divided , with some of its leaders making serious attempts to retain Kushwaha despite the assessment that he brought “no value addition” to the alliance and also the fact that his party’s votes were not transferable to the partners.

The RLSP on Tuesday announced a tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Janwadi Party Socialist.

A third Congress functionary said the delay in firming up the seat-sharing deal has impacted the alliance on the ground as had happened during last year’s Lok Sabha polls in which the ‘mahagathbandhan’ was wiped out.

Out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress managed to win one seat while the remaining 39 went to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party.

“The delay is also going to cost the candidates dear as any further delay will take away the crucial time from their limited number of days of campaign that has to be undertaken amid several restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

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