The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 5 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Seat jigsaw for trio

The joke within the RJD is that its allies — the Congress and LJP — want them to play a T20 match.

“They want us to contest just 20 seats and leave the rest for them,” said an RJD leader.

The RJD leaders are angry even as its party chief Lalu Prasad negotiates the number of seats to be contested by each of the alliance parties.

“If we cannot contest 24 seats in Bihar, we might as well wind up the party,” said another RJD leader, insisting that the LJP and the Congress in Bihar do not have mass support and their party leaders were trying to hitchhike their entry into Parliament with the mass support of Lalu.

When the first round of talks was held between Rahul Gandhi and Lalu Prasad, the Congress vice-president had said the party would agree if there is a “respectable agreement” — a direct hint that the Congress would not take the humiliation of being given just three seats, like in 2009, leading to the alliance split.

“But to make Congress respectable in Bihar, the RJD is sacrificing itself,” said a concerned RJD leader.

Former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has openly declared that the RJD should not contest any less than 25 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats.

The formal announcement of the grand alliance appears to have got bogged down in numbers.

“Talks are on about seat sharing. Laluji is trying his best to keep the secular parties together. I believe there would be a solution,” said trusted aide of Lalu and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Kripal Yadav.

He, however, refused to give numbers. The state Congress chief, Ashok Choudhary, was in Delhi today to take part in the decisive round of talks between the RJD and the Congress leaders.

According to sources, the Congress is asking for 18 seats but will settle down for 10. The LJP is demanding 10 seats and declaring that it was not negotiable. The NCP — which is a partner in the UPA-II — apart from the Katihar seat, also wants Ujiarpur seat for its state president Nagmani.

“The worst problem is that the LJP is stressing on fielding dons-turned-politicians or their kin such as former MLA Rama Singh, Surajbhan and Rajan Tiwari. They are also demanding seats not only for Ram Vilas Paswan, but also for his son Chirag Paswan and his brother Ramchandar Paswan,” said an RJD leader, pointing out that even Congress was asking for seats, which were considered citadels of the RJD.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the RJD had contested 28 seats out of which it won four.

What worries RJD leaders is that the areas, which were dominated by the party, were going to its allies.

In Magadh division, where it used to hold all four seats, it will be contesting just one, while the rest three will go to the Congress and the LJP.

The RJD also questions the Congress’s claim of Madhubani, where its leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui lost narrowly to the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls.

“There are RJD leaders and workers gearing up to fight the Lok Sabha polls. They are not going to stay silent if their seat is handed over to the LJP or the Congress. They will join the JD(U) or the BJP and our party unit will become defunct there. It’s going to be difficult to transfer the RJD core votebank to the allies,” said a senior RJD leader, stressing that the party should insist on being the dominant partner even at the cost of having a few “friendly fights”.