As SP-BSP firm up poll pact, teething troubles dog Bihar’s Mahaghatbandan
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As SP-BSP firm up poll pact, teething troubles dog Bihar’s Mahaghatbandan

Whe ruling NDA in Bihar, led by Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) has already announced its seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha elections, the opposition grand alliance hasn’t ben able to decide on seat sharing yet.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2019 18:23 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times, Patna
Grand Allaince,Bihar,Seat sharing
RJD leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav is leading the efforts to cobble together an alliance of opposition parties in Bihar. (Diwakar Prasad/ Hindustan Times)

While the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) have finalised their alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the general elections, teething problems are dogging the Mahaghatbandan (Grand Alliance) in neighbouring Bihar.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which leading efforts to cobble together an opposition coalition in Bihar ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is facing a daunting task to shepherd eight parties squabbling over seat adjustment and a common view. RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad wants to wrap up a seat-sharing deal for the 40 Lok Sabha seats by the end of January but his party’s efforts are being slowed down by the demands from different quarters.

In contrast, the ruling NDA in Bihar, led by Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) has already announced its seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha elections with BJP and JD (U) contesting 17 seats each and leaving six seats for Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP.

The entry of Upendra Kushwaha-led the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and the Mukesh Sahani-led Vikasshil Insaan Party (VIP), the announcement made by CPI and CPI (ML) to be part of the Mahaghatbandan, each demanding their share of cake, has made matters complicated in the alliance. Besides Loktantrik Janata Dal Sharad Yadav also want adjustments for his men who stood by him after he was expelled from the JD (U).

While the Congress wants 12 seats, the CPI and Sahani’s party are seeking three each and the CPI-ML, the RLSP and the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) want four each, leaving the RJD with just 14.

In 2014, RJD and Congress had contested on 27 and 13 seats respectively. The RJD won on four and Congress on two. RJD wants to contest almost on the same numbers or even more as it considers itself a senior partner in the alliance having larger vote share than the Congress and other allies in the mahagatbandhan. “The Congress is a fringe player in Bihar and would do well to confine itself to states where it is in a direct contest with the BJP,” said a former RJD MP who did not wish to be named.

The seat-sharing talks have also begun exposing cracks in the possible alliance. The RLSP has already started opposing the probability of the RJD contesting the Jehanabad seat. The problem is not confined to Jehanabad alone. The Darbhanga parliamentary seat has three serious opposition contenders — Abdul Bari Siddiqui of the RJD, former cricketer and Arun Jaitley baiter, Kirti Azad of the Congress, and Sahani, who hails from here. So is the case with Sitamarhi.

Watch: Politicos react to SP-BSP alliance ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha Elections

The Congress leadership in the state is playing it safe at the moment on seat sharing. A top Congress leader of the state said that the party will wait for public’s response to Rahul Gandhi’s rally in state capital in first week of February before putting forward its demand.

Seat sharing is not the only problem. The alliance has also had to contend with other teething issues. When Raghuvansh Prasad of the RJD’s suggested that all the parties contest under one common minimum programme and one symbol, he faced criticism.

The HAM laughed off suggestion. “We don’t treat him seriously,” said HAM founder Manjhi, who was upset after being left out for a meeting that RJD founder Lalu Prasad, currently admitted at the RIMS hospital in Ranchi. Kushwaha and Shani were part of the meeting.

The contradictory stand of the alliance partners on the 10% quota Bill for the upper caste poor, underlined another crack. While the Congress backed it, the RJD has opposed the Bill. Smaller constituents like HAM) also supported it, but the RLSP wanted quota for all students of government schools.

First Published: Jan 12, 2019 12:05 IST