While the nomination process for the first phase of Bihar Assembly elections got under way on Thursday, the Opposition Grand Alliance appears to be stuck over seat-sharing, with RJD national president Lalu Prasad reportedly having given a clear message to son and the party’s chief minister face Tejashwi Yadav not to offer the Congress more than 60 or 61 seats.
The Congress has sought to contest on around 70 seats.
The CPI(ML), which had been offered 15 seats by the RJD, has said no to the offer and declared a list of 30 candidates.
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CPI(ML)’s Bihar office secretary Kumar Parvez said: “We are not ready to accept the kind (number) of seats RJD is offering us. We have put forward our demand; now it is up to RJD to take a final call. Meanwhile, we have released our first list of 30 candidates.”
On seat arrangement with the Congress, an RJD leader elaborated, “As the Congress can easily shift its loyalty to the other camp [Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, in case the results throw up a hung Assembly] after the election results, Lalu Prasad wants RJD to contest on the maximum number of seats. Besides, it is always easy for smaller parties to split when a majority of its legislators want to shift their loyalty.”
The RJD said RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha was let go because his “loyalty to the Grand Alliance was wavering”.
Bihar Congress spokesperson Rajesh Rathore, however, sounded confident of stitching up things soon. He told The Indian Express: “We will share seats amicably. It might take a day or two.”
According to the RJD leader quoted above, the party is looking to contest on 150-plus seats. “We had offered three Left parties and JMM [Jharkhand Mukti Morcha] 25 seats altogether. While CPI and CPI(M) looked keen to take our offer, CPI(ML) wants 20 seats. Our leadership has decided against compromising with allies and potential allies beyond a point,” the leader said.
The RJD leader added that Vikasshil Insaan Party (VIP) is trying to bargain hard with the main opposition party in the state.
Former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and RLSP have so far left the Grand Alliance, ostensibly due to the RJD’s tough stance on the seat-sharing formula.
Another RJD leader said alliance partners had not been able to transfer their votes to RJD, which failed to open its account in last year’s Lok Sabha polls, down from four seats won in 2014. “We will not allow any extra baggage this time. We will fully test our strength,” the leader said.
The RJD has 81 seats in the present Assembly.
Asked about RJD’s tough stance, Congress’s Rathore said senior leaders from both RJD and Congress had been working it out.