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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress, RJD ink new Bihar seat deal, save alliance

The alliance between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar was saved from the brink of collapse on Thursday after the two parties agreed to swap some seats in a compromise deal.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 29, 2019 07:34 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The hitch in the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) apparently also delayed the induction of rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shatrughan Sinha in the Congress.
The hitch in the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) apparently also delayed the induction of rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shatrughan Sinha in the Congress.(HT PHOTO )
         

The alliance between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar was saved from the brink of collapse on Thursday after the two parties agreed to swap some seats in a compromise deal, people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

Both Congress and RJD wanted to contest the Darbangha and Supaul parliamentary seats in Bihar, the people said. The RJD argued that Darbhanga was one of its strongholds and its candidate Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi had lost to Kirti Azad in 2014, then with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and now with Congress, by a thin margin.

RJD contended that Fatmi has been winning Lok Sabha elections from Darbhanga since 1991, barring in 1999, 2009 and 2014

Under the new compromise deal, the RJD will contest the Darbhanga seat. Kirti Azad will be in the fray from Paschim Champaran.

This time, the RJD is likely to field senior leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui as its Darbhanga candidate.Also, the RJD agreed to leave Supaul for the Congress, whose candidate Ranjeet Ranjan is set to seek re-nomination from the seat.

The RJD was angered by Ranjan’s husband Rajesh Ranjan, better known as Pappu Yadav, filing his nomination as an independent from Madhepura against its nominee Sharad Yadav, who is expected to merge his Loktantrik Janata Dal with the RJD after the polls.

Pappu Yadav won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Madhepura on an RJD ticket but was later expelled from the party.

Bihar sends 40 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha. Overall, the seat-sharing distribution has remained unchanged, with the RJD contesting 20 seats, Congress nine, Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) five, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikasshil Insan Party (VIP) three seats each.

The hitch in the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) apparently also delayed the induction of rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shatrughan Sinha in the Congress.

While he was set to be inducted into the Congress on Thursday, it was later announced that the event will now take place on April 6. Sinha, who met Congress president Rahul Gandhi, later told reporters that the announcement would be made on the auspicious occasion of Navratra.

The outspoken former union minister said he will fight from Patna Sahib, whatever be the situation. The BJP has already named Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as its candidate from the seat.

At the time of his joining, Sinha wants both Congress and RJD leaders to be present to project a picture of unity. RJD leaders are also backing Sinha from Patna Sahib,

The seat-sharing agreement had caused some heartburn in the Congress with a section of leaders claiming that their party had been given a raw deal.

“It is unfortunate that we have got no seat in Mithilanchal which used to be our bastion at one point of time. There is no effort to regain our traditional stronghold,” senior Congress leader from Bihar Kishore Kumar Jha said.

The region has a strong presence of Maithili Brahmins, Muslims and backward classes.

“We [Congress] have compromised a lot in this seat-sharing deal. We have clearly been given a raw deal,” Jha added.

Another Congress leader said on condition of anonymity that Gandhi does not want the collapse of the alliance and was willing to accommodate the RJD’s concerns for the larger goal of ousting the BJP from power in this summer’s Lok Sabha elections.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 06:15 IST