In Bihar grand alliance deal, a climb down for Congress and a Lalu Yadav imprint
The Congress having made a climb down from its demand of 11 seats and had to forgo its traditional Aurangabad seat as coalition leaders today announced that the seat had gone to HAM(S) led by Jitan Ram Manjhi.
After much delay, the grand alliance in Bihar on Friday announced a seat-sharing deal for the Lok Sabha elections. Under the arrangement, Rashtriya Janata Dal would contest 20 seats, with the Congress fighting in nine. The two national Left parties—CPI and CPM—were given a cold shoulder.
Under the arrangement, GA’s other constituents like RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party) would contest five seats, Hindustani Awam Morcha (S) three seats and Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP) three seats. One seat has been offered to CPI-ML(liberation), a major Left force in Bihar, by the RJD from its own quota. CPI-ML is yet to respond to the offer.
The Congress having made a climb down from its demand of 11 seats and had to forgo its traditional Aurangabad seat as coalition leaders today announced that the seat had gone to HAM(S) led by Jitan Ram Manjhi. Former Governor Nikhil Kumar was vying for the ticket from the Aurangabad seat.
The non-allotment of seats to CPI or CPM has dashed hopes of former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union president Kanhaiya Kumar of contesting from the Begusarai parliamentary seat as a grand alliance candidate.
Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav who was likely to announce the seat adjustment did not turn up at the press conference, which was addressed by RJD’s Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson Manoj Jha, state RJD president RamChandra Purbe and Congress state president Madan Mohan Jha.
There were speculation Tejashwi skipped the event to evade questions on existing hitches on certain seats between RJD and Congress, a reason why the GA presser did not announce the names of seats to be contested by all allies. Only names of candidates of seats going to poll in the first phase were announced.
“Congress has been given nine seats and would get the first seat of Rajya Sabha whenever there is a vacancy from Bihar as part of deal,” Manoj Jha, adding that another ally and socialist veteran Sharad Yadav, a foe-turned-friend of incarcerated RJD chief Lalu Prasad, will contest the polls on a RJD ticket.
“Sharad Yadav heading Loktantrik Janata Da(LJD) will also merge with RJD post the election,” said Jha, signaling how the former NDA convenor has not been able to bargain much by joining the mahagatbhandhan. Sharad Yadav is likely to contest on a RJD ticket from Madhepura constituency, a seat he has represented several times.
In many ways, the seat-sharing deal has the imprint of Lalu Yadav’s deft negotiations despite pressure from Congress to allot 11-13 seats.
In last few days, RJD and Congress had almost come to point of break-up over seat allotment but sources said senior Congress leaders and Congress boss Rahul Gandhi had the final say in clinching the deal.
Today, Congress state president Madan Mohan Jha did not make any official statement at the press conference related to the poll pact. “We should have got at least 10 seats. Congress cannot be sidelined like that,” said a state Congress leader.
The grand alliance’s seat-sharing exercise having gone for months has also clearly outlined that Lalu led RJD, commanding a sizeable share of votes with vote transferring ability of Yadavs and Muslims, is banking on smaller parties to take on BJP-JD(U) led NDA in the Lok Sabha polls.
On the question of the CPI-ML joining the grand alliance, the RJD spokesperson said the grand alliance had made the offer and is waiting for the left party to respond. “If it accepts our offer, RJD would contest 19 seats,” said, Jha.
On its part, CPI-ML state secretary Kunal said the party would consider the offer and take a decision in next two days. “We will not say anything right now,” he said.