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Congress’s 20-20 demand gives new twist to seat sharing in grand alliance

The Congress became the first in the grand alliance camp to pitch for 20 seats, leaving the rest for the RJD.

patna Updated: Oct 28, 2018 16:36 IST
Anil Kumar
Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
RJD,Congress,Grand Alliance
Congress president Rahul Gandhi with Lalu Prasad’s son and RJD vice-president Tejaswi Yadav. (HT PHOTO)

A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) agreed to contest equal number of Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, the Congress raised its stake, demanding a 20-20 seat sharing formula with its Grand Alliance (GA) ally, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Positioning itself as the lead player in the 2019 electoral battle with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the Congress became the first in the GA camp to pitch for 20 seats, leaving the rest for the RJD. This will allow the Congress to accommodate other allies from its share.

Confirming the demand, Congress working president Kaukab Quadri said the party was ready for a role reversal in the 2020 assembly elections. “As of now, the Congress should be granted the choice of accommodating its existing and prospective partners (in case of crossover from NDA) from its quota of 20 seats,” he said.

As per the initial understanding, RJD was planning to contest 20-22 seats and wished to allocate the rest among its allies, with the Congress getting eight, Hindustani Awam Morcha (1-2) and the three Left parties, Loktantrik Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party one each. It also wanted to keep four seats in the reserved list in case Union minister Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party switched sides.

Though Quadri was quick to rule out the surprise element in the demand which he claimed was just a redo of the existing scheme of things, “The Congress can never be a B-team in the crucial fight. If the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) comes to power, All India Congress Committee (AICC) chief Rahul Gandhi will be the leader. We have demonstrated our ability to run an alliance government. It has more to do with perception and the scope for dispute is almost non-existent,” he said.

Going on to add that such a move would send out the “correct” signals, provide strength and be a nice gesture, he said, “Our demand changes nothing. It only adds to our responsibility for sacrifice, in case winnability on a particular seat demanded it in favour of an ally over and above the number allocated for them.”

However, RJD legislator and party spokesman Bhai Birendra said there was no dispute on seat sharing in the GA and everything was finalised. “We don’t require to hold a press conference (like the NDA) to announce it. It will be in public domain after Chhath festival or latest by November end,” Birendra said.

Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha also met thee AICC chief in New Delhi, who is learnt to have directed him to hold preliminary discussion with allies.

The GA partners have so far desisted from airing open protest. But the question remains: whether it will remain that way even after seat sharing is finalised.

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 16:32 IST