The Congress is adamant to contest equal number of seats vis-a-vis the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the Lok Sabha elections. According to sources, it would contest no less than 15 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
But the RJD is not ready to offer more than 10 seats to the Congress as it wants to contest 20 seats and leave 10 seats for other allies, like the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), the Left parties and the Vikasshil Insan Party (VIP), led by “Son of Mallah” Mukesh Sahani.
“Nothing is clear till now as far as seat-sharing in the Grand Alliance is concerned. The picture is still hazy. The RJD and the Congress are busy bargaining with each other over seats. While both need each other, they cannot ignore other allies ahead of elections,” a senior Congress leader told IANS, here on Saturday.
“All eyes are now on Congress President Rahul Gandhi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his son and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav to finalise the seat sharing,” he said.
Another Congress leader said even after Tejashwi met Gandhi in Delhi recently, the seat-sharing in Bihar was not finalised.
“We want to contest not less than 15 seats. We are sure of victory, as an internal survey conducted by the party indicated positive results in favour of the Congress. Besides, the popularity graph of Rahul Gandhi has gone up. The party also received a boost after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joining active politics,” the Congress leader said.
His views were echoed by several other Congress leaders. The message was clear: The Congress didn’t want more seats than the RJD, but no less either.
But the RJD is reluctant to treat the Congress as an equal partner and has decided to play the “big brother” in the Mahagathbandhan.
“THe RJD is a mass-based party and has 80 legislators in the Asssembly. We have a strong social support base that will help other allies too,” said RJD state President Ramchandra Purbe.
But Purbe told IANS the seat-sharing formula has been finalised and an announcement will be made soon. He reiterated the RJD will contest 20-22 seats, leaving the rest to allies.
But sources in the RJD circle here suggested the aggressive tone of the Congress was creating trouble for the party, which used to decide everything on its own while the Congress was forced to accept it.
“The situation has changed. Now the Congress is putting pressure and is no longer ready to agree whatever decisions are made,” said a senior RJD leader.
According to RJD leaders close to Tejashwi, Lalu Prasad, undergoing treatment at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, would decide on number of seats to the Congress.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the RJD had contested 27 seats, Congress 12 and one seat was left for Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Tariq Anwar who has joined the Congress.
The RJD could win only 4 seats, the Congress 2 and the NCP one. The Janata Dal (United), which contested separately, also won only two seats. The BJP-led NDA won 31 seats, with the BJP’s tally being 22.
The Mahagathbandhan in Bihar comprises the Congress, the RJD, the RLSP led by former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, the HAM led by former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and the VIP.
The Left parties, including CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML, too are likely to contest polls together as part of the Grand Alliance.
Manjhi has been demanding seats no less than the RLSP. His bargaining power has gone up ever since the BJP urged him to join the NDA. “My party should get respectable number of seats. We have a large vote bank,” he said.
A HAM leader said Manjhi is unhappy with the Grand Alliance for ignoring him and giving the party less seats than was demanded. Manjhi is staking claim to 6 seats, followed by the RLSP (5), Left parties (4-5) and the VIP (2).