Key Congress panels are scheduled to meet this weekend to finalise candidates for Bihar but the grand alliance is yet to agree on seats, with the RJD flexing its muscle.
The JD(U) and the RJD will contest 100 seats each and the Congress 40, with three seats going possibly to the JMM. The JD(U) and the Congress have been urging Lalu to stick to a 4:4:2 breakup at each of three levels — district headquarters, urban seats, rural seats — with the JD(U) and the RJD getting 40% each and the Congress 20%.
Lalu has claimed Raghopur, held by the JD(U) but now likely to be contested by his son Tejaswi. The JD(U) had wrested the seat from Rabri Devi in 2010. “Laluji is also demanding Munger, Barbigha and Jamui,” said a JD(U) leader. “Every party has a presence in district HQs and a 4:4:2 breakup would give each constituent a balanced share.”
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An RJD source said its plans are being driven by demography. “There has to be give and take. There shouldn’t be many problems as the JD(U) will be a natural claimant to most of the seats it holds,” he said. The JD(U), which has 97 sitting MLAs after 19 rebelled under Jitan Ram Manjhi, could concede most of these 19 seats to the RJD.
The Congress wants to contest from the Champaran, Kosi, Seemanchal, Mithilanchal, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Banka, Nalanda and Hajipur belts. Party sources said they cannot be given seats that the BJP or it allies are sure of winning. “Winnability is a criteria not just in selection of candidates, but selection of seats too,” a senior leader engaged in the discussions said.
The Congress pradesh election committee is scheduled to meet in Delhi Sunday to shortlist the candidates, followed by meetings of the screening committee and central election committee Monday to finalise the candidates, at least for the first phase, nominations for which close Wednesday.
The Congress had informally set up a panel of senior leaders to identify the seats. PCC president Ashok Choudhary and CLP leader Sadanand Singh were not part of this panel, which is headed by Nikhil Kumar.
Kumar said the process of identifying seats is more or less over; “only the i’s are to be dotted and the t’s crossed”. But sources said the RJD is claiming seats that the Congress wants in Seemanchal. They attribute these last-minute demands to the entry of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM.