For all the muscle they are flexing at each other, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have both kept an alliance as their first objective. On Monday, in fact, both sides appeared to cede some ground on the alliance.
JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav said in Saharsa the “CM candidate may be discussed in a post-poll scenario”. This is one of the key obstacles; the JD(U) wants Nitish as the CM candidate while the RJD hasn’t committed itself. And Lalu said, “I have called Nitish and said we must sort out seat sharing. We need to do it fast.” On Tuesday, however, the RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said his party has several CM candidates.
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All this comes amid signs of both parties exploring various options, key among those being each one’s effort to rope in a former aide of the other. The alternative for Lalu includes Nitish’s protege-turned-arch-rival Jitan Ram Manjhi. Nitish, for his part, is looking at Lalu’s estranged relative Pappu Yadav.
Both those arrangements include the Congress, besides smaller parties. In that respect, it is Nitish who has played the stronger trump card by getting the Congress to declare its support for him.
State Congress president Ashok Kumar Choudhary on Monday announced support to Nitish and said the Congress would accept him as CM candidate. This was after consultations with Sonia Gandhi, he said. It was also Nitish’s answer to Lalu’s earlier suggestion that Manjhi should be part of the alliance.
Besides the CM candidate, the other thorn between the two has been the number of seats. The JD(U) wants an equal share. The RJD wants a larger share, based on its performance in assembly segments during the Lok Sabha polls.
Raghuvansh, the RJD’s national vice president, who has been discussing the alliance with the JD(U) so far, has been pointing out that the RJD stood first or second in 145 segments; the JD(U) could do that in 43. The JD(U) wants to go by the last assembly poll results; when it got 115 seats.
With the Congress apparently on Nitish’s side, there appears to be unease in the Lalu camp, though he is hoping on support from long-time Congress decision-makers such as Meira Kumar and Shakeel Ahmed. Lalu’s family has reportedly been stressing that the RJD needs to go with the JD(U) and the Congress. “Lalu’s sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi and daughter Misa Bharti are uneasy about the thought of failing to ally with Nitish, something that can make it easier for the NDA,” said an RJD source.