|Tariq Anwar and Abdul Bari Siddiqui
Seats have turned out to be the point of contention during the daylong alliance talks between the Congress and the RJD today.
The RJD appears to have realised that it cannot afford to give away “too many seats” to its allies. The party, which previously sounded desperate to ally with the Congress and the LJP, is now playing it safe.
“It’s not a question of trying to appease anyone. We are trying to take the Congress and the LJP along with us. Everyone knows the consequence of fighting polls alone,” said former chief minister Rabri Devi.
On Sunday, there were strong indications that the deal has finally been struck — 22 to RJD, 11 to Congress, six to LJP and one seat (Katihar) to NCP leader Tariq Anwar.
However on Monday, both the RJD and the Congress denied that the alliance had been given a final shape. “The talks are on but it has not been finalised,” said RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav.
“The confusion appears to have been created with the round of talks senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had with Ram Vilas Paswan and another RJD leader in Delhi. Digvijaya has nothing to do with Bihar Congress,” said a senior Congress leader who stressed that the deal would only be finalised after RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi thrash out the details.
However, several Congress leaders indicate that when Rahul insisted on a respectable alliance and one of two candidates of the party in each division, the total number of Congress candidates would be in double numbers. “The fact that Lalu has not talked directly with Paswan is because he does not know the exact number of seats the Congress is going to demand,” said a RJD leader.
The RJD said they did not wish to repeat the mistake they had made in 2009 by not only breaking the alliance but also giving the LJP 12 seats. “As a result, the LJP started to field weak candidates and we were not even able to transfer the RJD votes to the LJP candidates,” said a former MP of the RJD recalling that the LJP lost all 12 seats.
The RJD stresses that it is a changed political situation in Bihar from 2004 when the same alliance won 29 of 40 seats. “We are not sure that the RJD votes to either the Congress or LJP can be transferred. Besides, the party unit where we give away a seat dies a natural death. The party unit either becomes inactive or its members join the JD(U) and even the BJP,” said the former MP.
The RJD is anticipating rebellion at the local level where seats are given to allies. There are also contradictions. In 2009, senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui contested from Madhubani along with Congress general secretary Shakil Ahmad. Siddiqui lost the election by a slim margin of 9,000 votes to BJP candidate Hukumdev Narayan Yadav while Shakil came a distant third.