As the run-up to the Bihar elections heats up, prospective Opposition candidates are showing signs of impatience at the lack of clarity on seat-sharing in the Opposition alliance.
Behind this is the growing belief that while there is anti- incumbency against the Nitish Kumar government, the Opposition needs to hit the ground to make optimal use of this. Sources in the leadership of Opposition parties say talks are on, but the negotiations are “complicated” with so many players involved.
A Congress ticket hopeful, who wants to contest from the Munger division, said the mood on the ground was “encouraging”. “I want to contest from a difficult seat where the percentage of Muslims and Yadavs is not high. But as I am going around, even people from other castes seem fed up with this government. The three issues that seem to be in our favour is the anti-incumbency, the economic distress due to the lockdown and floods, and anger among students. Now there may be some effects of the farm Bill, but certainly not as much as in Punjab or Haryana,” the leader said. “But our leadership has not even hinted who will get what seat, and what the understanding is. We may be losing precious time.”
Opposition leaders on the ground are worried about Seemanchal, a Muslim-dominated region which they see as a stronghold and where the AIMIM is seen to be making headway.
“After the AIMIM won the Kishanganj bypoll, some sections see them as a serious alternative to the BJP. This is a threat to the Opposition, because even if the AIMIM wins a few seats, they will divide the Opposition votes in others. We need to hit the ground to tell people we are the only alternative. But AIMIM is already on the ground, and has announced its intention to fight 50 seats, mostly in Seemanchal. Why are we wasting time?” an RJD leader from the area said.
Leaders involved in the negotiations, however, said there are disadvantages to announcing candidates too early.
“The negotiations are not easy. The RJD is the biggest player, but others do not trust each other even though they feel they should come together to defeat the bigger enemy, the JDU-BJP. The Left parties and RLSP and VIP argue that the Congress has no base. The others think the Left is growing obsolete. Some believe that votes of RSLP AND VIP don’t get transferred, and that their MLAs are amenable to going over (to the other side) in a post-poll scenario. The Congress argues that it is seen as the largest opposition. The Left says it is the only one with a cadre that stays loyal,” a leader said.
Some state-level leaders said an announcement made too early could leave room for anger within their own camp. But one prospective candidate said, “There are many stages between a formal announcement to the media. Informally, candidates are told you should start preparing, and assurances are given, which generate some confidence. Even that has not happened.”
Some party leaders involved in negotiations said there were signs of a breakthrough. “We are in a better place than we were even a week ago. From our point of view, RJD has shifted a little from its rigid stance that it would contest all the seats it had won which was impossible because they won under different conditions with the JDU,” a CPI(ML) leader said.
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