Trying to bring along what it calls like-minded secular parties to take on Narendra Modi, the ruling Congress finds itself faced with allies that are for once assertive after having seemed, until recently, reconciled to the Congress’s big-brotherly attitude.
After the NCP refused to part with even one seat from its quota in Maharashtra, Lalu Prasad of the RJD is learnt to have hardened his stand in the seat-sharing negotiations. In the Kashmir valley, where it plans to contest one seat this time, the Congress finds itself intimidated by its coalition partner in the state, the National Conference, whose chief minister recently threatened to resign over the creation of new administrative units. In Tamil Nadu, the Congress is eager to patch up with the DMK but M Karunanidhi is yet to play ball. In UP, the Congress is eager to have a tie-up with the BSP but the latter has nipped any such possibility in the bud declaring it would go it alone.
No wonder Congress leaders have a stock answer to every question about talks on alliances: “The A K Antony committee (the party subgroup on pre-poll alliances) has not submitted its report yet.”
Lalu, who kept on extending unsolicited support to UPA II despite being consistently denied a place in the government, is learnt to have raised the stakes. He had been desperately knocking on 10 Janpath until recently, when the Congress had been weighing the option of going with the JD(U). In 2009, the RJD’s refusal to give more than three seats to the Congress in Bihar had led to the breakdown of negotiations.
Lalu has had two meetings with Rahul Gandhi and one with Sonia Gandhi but the stalemate on seat shares continues, much to the exasperation of LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan, who admitted at an interaction with The Indian Express team that he was completely in the dark about the status of the Congress-RJD-LJP alliance. Rahul is said to have demanded at least 15 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats but the RJD is not willing to give it more than 10.
“We just want the Congress to tell us their candidates and we are ready to accept what they want. They don’t have candidates for even half a dozen seats. We are saying that even RJD MPs would be supporting the Congress only after elections. So, why this insistence on contesting so many seats and losing them to the BJP?” a senior RJD leader told The Indian Express.
Leaders of all three parties, however, remain confident of sorting out the differences over seat-sharing, simply because none of them has any other options.
“Everybody suddenly appears to have grown teeth. But it is understandable in the given circumstances,” a senior Congress functionary said, an admission of the party’s vulnerability at a time when all pre-poll surveys continued…