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Lok Sabha Polls: Congress seals seat-sharing pact with JD(S), Bihar talks still on

The Karnataka pact was clinched at a meeting between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and JD(S) national general secretary Danish Ali at the Kochi airport.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | March 14, 2019 1:18:07 am
karnataka elections, Karnataka congress JDS coalition, lok sabha elections, rahul gandhi, deve gowda,  kumaraswamy, lok sabha polls 2019, indian express, india news, latest news JD(S) leader and Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy with Congress President Rahul Gandhi. (PTI Photo)

AFTER DAYS of negotiations, the Congress on Wednesday sealed a seat-sharing pact with the JD(S) in Karnataka, but could not announce a seat-sharing arrangement for Bihar despite a marathon meeting with allies, including the RJD. In Delhi, the Congress leadership indicated that it is still open to the possibility of an alliance with the AAP.

The Karnataka pact was clinched at a meeting between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and JD(S) national general secretary Danish Ali at the Kochi airport. The Congress will contest 20 of the 28 seats, leaving eight seats for the JD(S). Gandhi spoke to JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda before sealing the deal.

Gowda had initially demanded 12 seats, but scaled it down to 10 at a meeting with Gandhi last week. The Congress agreed to give its sitting seat of Tumkur to the JD(S), while the regional party, which was demanding the Mysore seat — in the face of opposition from Congress leaders like former chief minister Siddaramaiah — withdrew its claim.

Meanwhile, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and AICC in-charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil held a nearly five-hour-long meeting with leaders of RJD and other parties in Delhi. After the meeting, Gohil said the pact would be finalised in the next 48 hours. Sources said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav would meet Gandhi to seal the deal and iron out differences over the number and choice of seats.

Sources said the understanding as of now is that that the RJD would get around 20 seats, leaving 10 or 11 for the Congress, while the rest would go to smaller allies like Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM, CPI, CPI(ML), Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikasheel Insaf Party. RLSP is likely to get three seats, while the rest may get one seat each. Sharad Yadav is likely to contest from Madhepura. However, there is a lot of muscle flexing and hard bargaining by all the parties. The CPI is likely to field its young face, Kanhaiya Kumar, from either Ara or Begusarai.

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In Delhi, the Congress high command has signalled that it is still open to the possibility of an alliance with the AAP. Two days after Gandhi ruled out an alliance with AAP, telling party workers that they would have to win all the seven seats in Delhi, the Congress on Wednesday turned to Shakti, its internal messaging platform, to seek the views of party workers on an alliance with AAP.

AICC in-charge of Delhi P C Chacko sent a pre-recorded audio message asking workers whether the party should go for an alliance with AAP “to defeat the BJP”.

In Karnataka, the JD(S) will field candidates from Uttara Kannada, Udupi Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Tumkur, Hassan, Mandya, Bengaluru North and Vijayapura. The JD(S) faced intense pressure from Congress rebels in Mandya, where it has proposed the candidature of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil Kumaraswamy. The lack of a formal announcement on the seat-sharing deal from the official JD(S) leadership on Wednesday suggested unhappiness over the final arrangement.

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