PATNA: Inordinate delay by Bihar’s RJD-led Opposition Grand Alliance (GA) in finalising a seat-sharing pact for the Lok Sabha polls has turned the smaller parties restive and led to intensified one-upmanship games among the allies.
Even as RJD and Congress, the two largest parties in GA, are yet to resolve how many seats they would contest each, the smaller parties have started sending warning signals to them. The former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president Jitan Ram Manjhi said on Thursday that his party would field candidates in 20 of Bihar’s total 40 seats unless it is allotted “an honourable number of seats”.
While it was expected that a seat-sharing deal would be announced a day or two after Congress national president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Patna on February 3, the issue still remains unresolved. The reason, according to sources in Congress and RJD, is RJD’s insistence on contesting for 20 seats and Congress’s unwillingness to accept any fewer than 16 seats.
Rajya Sabha member and Congress’s state election campaign committee head Akhilesh Prasad Singh met jailed RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav at a hospital in Ranchi and discussed the knotty seat-sharing deal with him. While Singh declined to reveal what transpired between them, party sources said Yadav made it clear to him that RJD would contest for 20 seats and Congress would be allotted ten seats.
Singh is understood to have told Yadav clearly that such a deal is not acceptable to Congress. A senior Congress leader said Rahul Gandhi is likely to discuss with Bihar Congress leaders the issues related to the party’s seat-sharing deal with RJD in New Delhi on Friday.
“It is certain that RJD, by virtue of being the strongest party in Bihar with the largest number of seats in the Assembly, would contest for 20 seats and Congress would get between 12 and 10 seats. The rest of the seats would be amicably distributed among the other allies,” said a senior RJD leader familiar with the developments.
Indecision over the seat-sharing deal has led to acrimony within GA constituents HAM and RLSP and also sparked high-profile exits from both the parties. HAM state president Brishen Patel and national spokesperson Danish Rizwan quit the party on February 6 while RLSP working president Nagmani resigned on February 10.
Anticipating that HAM may get no more than one seat to contest, Jitan Ram Manjhi has reportedly asked his aides to prepare for contesting for 20 seats. Sources said two other GA parties – Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) – are also making similar plans.
“The seat-sharing deal is expected to be finalised and announced latest by February 20 or 21,” said Akhilesh Prasad Singh, declining to elaborate. Senior RJD leader Bhai Birendra claimed there is “absolutely no problem” in GA over seat-sharing.
Bihar’s GA comprises RJD, Congress, HAM, RLSP, VIP, Sharad Yadav’s LJD and the three Left parties – CPI, CPI(ML) and CPM.