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Friday, October 23, 2020

Bihar elections: 70 seats and a big climb for Congress

Of the 70 seats Congress is contesting, the party has not won 45 in the last two decades, with 12 won by either the BJP or its ally JD(U). In 18 of the 70, even Congress partner RJD has not won in 20 years.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: October 17, 2020 1:13:24 pm
congress bihar elections candidate list, bihar grand alliance, bihar opposition mahagathbandhan, congress rjd bihar elections, bihar assembly elections 2020The Congress has fielded former JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav’s daughter Subhashini from the JD(U) stronghold of Bihariganj seat in Madhepura. (ANI)

ON PAPER, apprehension among a section of the Congress of the RJD giving it a bad bargain in the 70 seats allotted to it as part of the Mahagathbandhan, seems to be justified. The constituencies the party is contesting from finally became evident Friday evening when it released its list at the end of some hard-nosed negotiations with the RJD.

Of the 70 seats, the Congress has not won 45 in the last two decades, with 12 won by either the BJP or its ally JD(U). In 18 of the 70, even Congress partner RJD has not won in 20 years.

Twenty-three of the seats in the Congress’s share are those it had won last time. It has had to cede four seats that it won in 2015 to allies and has got two constituencies from where the RJD had won.

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Congress sources accepted that some of these seats would be very difficult for them to win, but are taking heart from the fact that the party has some good candidates there. For instance, it has fielded former JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav’s daughter Subhashini from the JD(U) stronghold of Bihariganj seat in Madhepura, while ex-LJP leader Kali Prasad Pandey has been fielded from Kuchaikote Assembly constituency in Gopalganj district. It is also banking on former Bollywood star and ex-BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv Sinha to get it traction in Bankipur, which has been with the BJP for long.

The Congress had contested 41 Assembly seats in 2015, when the Mahagathbandhan included the JD(U), and won 27. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls though, the Congress had won just one seat, the Muslim-dominated Kishanganj, in Bihar, with the rest 39 going to the BJP-JD(U)-LJP NDA combine. Many in the RJD had argued at the time that the party might have erred in giving too many seats (9) to the Congress.

Those from the Congress engaged in talks with the RJD argue that it has managed to get a fair bargain.

The Congress list is also marked by a preference for young candidates — with the average age, sources said, 47.5. As many as 39 of the 70 candidates are below 50 years of age.

The party has fielded seven women candidates, and 12 Muslim nominees. Its Muslim faces include Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani, former president of the Aligarh Muslim University Student’s Union, who had been a prominent face in the anti-CAA-NRC protests early this year. Usmani has been fielded from the Jale seat in Dharbhanga district.

While nearly half of the Congress candidates are from the general category — 11 Bhumihars, nine Brahmins and Rajputs each, and four Kayasths (33 in all) — the party has fielded nine candidates who are OBCs, 14 who are Scheduled Castes and two who belong to Extremely Backward Classes.

The constituencies with sitting Congress MLAs where the party is not contesting this time are Bhorey, Bachhwara, Manjhi and Gobindpur, which have gone to allies RJD and the three Left parties. The RJD has given it two of its sitting seats, Raja Pakar and Sakra.

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Of 32 of the 38 seats in the Congress’s share from where it had not contested last time, the party has only won Vaishali (2000) and Hisua (2005) in the last 20 years. Six of the 38 seats came into existence after delimitation in 2008, and have been won by either the JD(U) or the BJP since.

Nineteen among these 38 seats were won by the JD(U) in 2015, when it contested in alliance with the RJD and Congress. Some of them, like Supaul, Maharajganj, Nalanda, Harnaut and Sultanganj, have been JD(U) strongholds for two decades.

Also, of the 70 seats with the Congress, the BJP has not lost seven — Chanpatia, Raxaul, Patna Sahib, Lakhisarai, Purnia, Gaya town and Ramnagar — in 20 years.

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