Rahul Gandhi and Tejaswi (right) during the Congress vice-president’s first election rally in Bihar, in West Champaran, on Saturday. Rahul warned the people to beware of the Prime Minister’s “suited-booted” officials who would snatch their lands away from them. Both chief minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad were absent. Picture by Awadh Kishor Tiwari
Patna, Sept. 19: RJD chief Lalu Prasad is the big brother of the grand alliance, if the seats the JDU has conceded to the RJD and Congress is any indication.
The alliance partners are yet to name candidates but they today spelt out seats each party would contest. The JDU and RJD would contest 101 seats each and the Congress 41, but the JDU has conceded 33 seats it won in 2010 to the RJD or Congress. Angry JDU MLAs switched over to the BJP or lamented that "loyalty" does not pay.
State JDU president Bashishtha Narayan Singh remarked: "There would be voices of dissent during every ticket distribution session." Other JDU leaders were more pragmatic. "Let us admit it. Among the three partners, only Lalu's foot soldiers can combat the cadre-based BJP on the ground," said a senior JDU leader.
Ever since it allied with the RJD and Congress, it was well known that the JDU would have to slice down the number of seats to contest. In the 2010 Assembly polls, the JDU had contested 141 seats, leaving 102 to its then ally, the BJP. This time, both the JDU and RJD would contest 101 seats each. But what has shocked JDU leaders is the manner in which seats were transferred to the Congress and RJD. "The party would have been willing to give seats won by the BJP in 2010. But the party has actually conceded 33 seats it had won in 2010 to either the RJD or the Congress," said a senior JDU leader pointing out that the thumb rule in the alliance was "sitting-getting" (partners got the seat they held) .
But what actually happened was a lot different. While the Congress was allowed to retain five seats held by its MLAs, the JDU had to sacrifice sitting MLAs. "In several seats, like Barbigha in Sheikhpura and Jehanabad, we came to realise we could not have won without the BJP's support and the RJD was better equipped to fight it out," the JDU leader said.
Lalu was not only able to get seats like Raghopur and Mahua - held by the JDU in the last Assembly - for his two sons, he also forced the JDU to give its seatin Nawada district to his favoured man, Raj Ballav Yadav. The JDU's MLA couple of Kaushal Yadav and Poonam Yadav in Nawada were known for their anti-Lalu stance. Both their seats have been transferred.
Lalu even managed to get a JDU MLA in Nitish Kumar's home district - Usha Sinha in Hilsa Assembly seat - to make way for the RJD.
In contrast, the RJD has transferred only one seat - Babubarhi in Madhubani district - to the JDU.
Most JDU seats that had rebel MLAs of the party have gone to the RJD. Also, many sitting JDU MLAs who stood by Nitish during the political showdown with Jitan Ram Manjhi, are likely to be denied tickets in the grand alliance.
The fallout of the seat announcements was immediate. The giant killer of Raghopur, who defeated Rabri Devi in 2010, walked over to the BJP. Others may follow suit if the BJP is looking for candidates in some seats. "But this is a political compulsion in alliances, especially when you have a partner like Lalu," said a JDU MLA lucky enough to get a ticket.
When the JDU-RJD alliance was being formulated, Lalu had declared that his vote bank would compensatefor the seats lost to the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. He appears to have drawn a heavy price for it.