The Telegraph
Thursday , July 24 , 2014
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Thorn of seat share in alliance
- RJD efforts to cash in on 2010 results

Patna, July 23: The number of seats to be shared between the JDU and RJD, which admittedly have agreed in-principle to contest the by-elections in alliance in 10 Assembly seats against the BJP, continued to be an issue yet to be clinched between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s outfits.

“When the two parties have decided in-principle to get united against the BJP, the practical issues like who will contest how many seats will not come in the way of the JDU-RJD alliance. It is just a matter of time when the two parties will settle the issue of seat sharing to put a final stamp on what they have agreed in-principle. It can happen anytime,” the RJD national spokesman, Manoj Jha, said.

Sources close to both Nitish and Lalu revealed that the two leaders were in “direct touch” with each other, finding out the ways to settle the seat-sharing issue though the JDU has “officially” nominated its state party chief and an old socialist warhorse, Bashishtha Narayan Singh to negotiate with the RJD leadership.

The sources in both the camps said there were some “realistic bottlenecks” in arriving at the final decision on the seats to be shared.

For instance, in the 2010 Assembly polls, the ruling JDU had won only one of the 10 seats going to the polls on August 21. The BJP had won six and RJD three in the polls.

According to grapevine in the RJD, Lalu wishes to have three of the six seats that the BJP had won in his RJD’s share apart from retaining the three that his party candidates had won.

At the same time, both Lalu and Nitish collectively wish the Congress and the Left to be accommodated in these 10 seats. In such a situation, the JDU might be left with barely a seat or two to contest which might not be “befitting” to its status as the ruling party.

A section of pro-alliance leaders in both the parties have also been suggesting the formula that the two should share five seats each, requesting the Congress and Left to support the alliance on the “promise” that they would be accommodated in the “broader secular alliance” in the 2015 Assembly elections.

However, both Nitish and Lalu are believed to be working overtime to use to by-elections to the 10 seats as “semi final” of the 2015 elections with JDU, RJD, Congress and Left putting up a united show against the BJP.

In the calculations of the two leaders, the BJP, which had bagged seven of the 10 seats in 2010 might be under “more pressure” to retain its previous election’s tally.

“If the RJD-JDU alliance makes a headway against the BJP, it will be a big psychological advantage against the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls,” a senior JDU strategist said, adding: “The two parties should settle the seat-sharing issue soon to have adequate time to test this experiment against the BJP.”

Although the issue between the JDU and RJD on seat-sharing is yet to be settled the two leaders, Nitish and Lalu have tried their best to silence the opponents of the alliance in their respective parties. Thanks to Lalu’s intervention the senior RJD leader, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh who sounded acerbic to Nitish at the outset has fallen silent now. Nitish too threatened in a veiled manner that the axe might fall on the likes of his erstwhile aide and Islampur MLA, Rajiv Ranjan, and his likes who were speaking against the alliance.

It is still not known whether the alliance — if it eventually happens — will succeed against the resurgent BJP, which now has Narendra Modi well settled in his prime ministerial office and the party well entrenched in power at the Centre. But what is said to be sure is that the BJP will have to rework its strategy against the combined might of Lalu and Nitish whose parties “if counted together” had fetched 45 per cent of the votes against the 31 per cent of the BJP in the May Lok Sabha elections.

Moreover, the party had Modi creating a wave-like situation in his favour against the divided socialists — Lalu and Nitish. Modi might not be that pivotal a figure in the Assembly elections which in all probability would be fought on local issues.

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