Nitish, Lalu break bread, to contest Bihar polls in alliance

Nitish, Lalu break bread, to contest Bihar polls in alliance

Ending suspense over the issue of a tie-up, Bihar's ruling JD(U) and Lalu Prasad's RJD today decided to contest the state assembly elections in alliance and constitute a six member committee to finalize seat-sharing.

"It has been decided in today's meeting that a committee of three members each from RJD and JD-U will decide seat sharing and leaders of both parties will give a final shape to it. It has been decided now that both parties will fight the election in Bihar in alliance," Samajwadi Party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav said.

He was talking to reporters after a two-hour long meeting between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad at the residence of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was approached by the two parties to broker peace after days of sparring between leaders of the two parties.

Asked about the contentious issue of chief ministership, the SP general secretary said,"There is no dispute (Koi gahma gahmi nahin hai). These things will be taken care of later. The real thing is seat sharing..."

Emerging from the meeting Ram Gopal expressed confidence that the leaders of the two parties will complete the task of devising an effective seat-sharing arrangement very soon.

The SP general secretary was reading from a resolution adopted at the meeting which was also read out separately by JD-U general secretary K C Tyagi.

Leaders from the three parties refused to elaborate on the matter further.

These decisions were taken after back to back meetings here. Nitish Kumar, who had arrived in the national capital yesterday, drove down to the residence of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi where they held discussions for almost an hour-and-a-half.
RJD chief Prasad had landed in the national captial when Kumar was meeting Rahul.

After weeks of sparring by leaders of their parties, Kumar and Prasad, who had not met for quite some time, today sat across the table at Mulayam's residence in order to remove the irritants in the path of forging an alliance to thwart BJP's attempt to wrest power in the politically sensitive state.

Congress has lent its weight behind the Bihar Chief Minister, making it clear that while it would like a grand alliance with Lalu and Kumar, it would rally around the latter if an alliance between the two Bihar-centric parties fails to materialize.

While Kumar immediately left for Patna after the meeting, Lalu Prasad stayed on and was later joined by Sharad Yadav for another round of talks at Mulayam's residence. Kumar, who came out of the meeting smiling, did not talk to reporters.


Kumar, who stayed in Bihar Bhavan, drove to residence of party MP RCP Singh in the morning. AICC general secretary in-charge for the state CP Joshi, who had met Kumar last evening as well, arrived there. The three later went to Rahul's residence.

As the war of words between state leaders of the two Bihar parties intensified, Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar yesterday said in Jamshedpur that BJP was trying all ways to break the JD(U)-Congress-RJD alliance and was "pressuring" an MP of Lalu's party under CBI scanner in connection with the coal scam, for the job.

The same day in Patna, Lalu Prasad hit out at the BJP and RSS for speculating about his party's tie-up with JD(U), saying they were "more worried about the alliance" owing to "fear of defeat."

The speculation about BJP working on RJD could create problems for Prasad's party, which ruled the state for three consecutive terms on strength of the Muslim-Yadav combination that stood rock solid behind it.

Congress, which wants a broader umbrella alliance of RJD, JD(U), Congress, NCP, CPI-M and CPI to take on a resurgent BJP in the state, is keeping RJD chief at an arm's length this time with many in the party blaming Prasad for Ram Vilas Paswan's exit from UPA during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The fact that Prasad had whittled down Congress' seats to only three in Bihar in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls still rankles with many in the party.

Congress also feels that Kumar's image as a clean politician and good administrator suits it more, while Lalu Prasad, who has been convicted in a fodder scam case, cannot contest elections. Rahul in particular was said to be in favour of siding with Kumar.

The discussion with Rahul, which took place ahead of a meeting between the leaders of RJD and JD(U), is being seen as an attempt to show that Kumar is the preferred choice of the Congress.

However, not declaring Kumar as CM candidate of the alliance, indicates that differences still continue between the two leaders on the issue of chief ministership.

While JD(U) has been insisting on Nitish to be declared as the chief ministerial candidate, Lalu has been maintaining that the issue can be addressed later. The RJD leader today appeared to have had his way as the matter has been kept pending.

When asked about the larger issue of merger of six erstwhile constituents of Janata Parivar, the SP leader expressed confidence that it will happen after Bihar polls.

 

Devising an amicable seat-sharing arrangement is likely to be a tough task for the two parties.

Of the 243 assembly seats in Bihar, JD(U) had contested 141 in alliance with BJP and won 117 in 2010 elections. Lalu’s RJD on the other hand had contested 168 seats in alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and won only 24 seats.

While the JD(U) began by saying that the 2010 formula should be repeated, RJD talked of 2014 Lok Sabha results to be considered as the basis for seat-sharing.

In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, JD(U) had won only two seats, while RJD won four and Congress two. RJD had then led in 43 assembly segments and finished second in 92 assembly segments.

RJD Vice President Raghuvansh Prasad Singh last month demanded that the party be allotted at least 145 seats of the total of 243 seats on this basis.

Beyond these public assertions, one compromise formula being discussed was that both JD(U) and RJD contest 100 seats each leaving the rest for allies.

Even as RJD and JD(U) are engaged in a hard bargain over seats for the assembly polls, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Patna that all secular parties must unite to defeat 'communal' BJP in Bihar elections.

"I am confident that all secular parties will rally together to not only defeat the BJP-led NDA in the Assembly poll in Bihar, but also end its 'politics of tension' (tanav ki rajniti)," he said.

On Kumar's reported insistence on being declared the alliance's chief ministerial candidate, he said the senior JD(U) leader is the Chief Minister and "the face of the alliance" at the moment and is being supported by all secular parties.

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