Left-RJD talks break down
The alliance talks between the Left parties and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have fallen apart over the disagreement on the number of seats to be contested and the CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar.
The communist parties are now mulling either to contest the polls together or go solo if the situation is not salvaged quickly.
Sources said the RJD is willing to spare less than 15 seats for the six Left parties in the state, including the major ones like the CPI, the CPI-ML, the CPM, and the minor ones — All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI). The Assembly has 243 seats.
The Left parties had come forward in August to join forces with the RJD-led Grand Alliance to counter the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state polls. Since then they had been separately negotiating with the RJD.
Apart from the RJD, the Grand Alliance includes the Congress and several smaller parties.
“As the negotiations progressed, two things became clear. The RJD has a problem with Kanhaiya Kumar, and it was willing to spare just five seats for us to contest. This is neither acceptable nor respectable. Chances of an alliance are now slim,” a senior CPI leader told The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity.
The matter came to a standstill on Sunday when a CPI delegation negotiating seat sharing with the RJD walked out from the meeting. Though the CPI currently has no representative in the Assembly, it used to be the second largest party in the 1980s and early 1990s. It still has influence across all the 38 districts in Bihar.
CPI national council member and former JNU Students’ Union member Kanhaiya Kumar is popular in the chiefly agrarian state.
Though he lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Begusarai constituency, his Jana-Gana-Mana Yatra against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) across Bihar in January-February this year attracted a large number of people from different sections of the society.
The RJD sees Kanhaiya as a contender to its leader and party national president Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as the next generation leader.
“Any seat-sharing deal should be respectable,” said CPI state secretary Ram Naresh Pandey.
“We had allied with Lalu Prasad in the 1995 state polls, contested on 55 seats and won 26. When Lalu had come to power in 1990, his government was in minority. At that time the CPI with its 23 MLAs gave him unconditional support. We are just hoping that all secular forces contest the elections together this time to defeat the BJP and the NDA,” Pandey added.
CPI-ML, which has currently three MLAs and is another broad-based Left party in several parts of the state, is facing a similar predicament. It submitted a list of 53 constituencies to the RJD for negotiations, but the latter is willing to allot it just six to seven seats. So far, three meetings between both the parties have been unfruitful.
“We have been contesting virtually independently till now, but took the initiative to go with the Grand Alliance to defeat the communal, anti-democracy forces and the NDA. There are several seats in different parts of Bihar that are identified with our struggle for the rights of the people and against feudalism. Our base of workers and supporters would become demoralised if we accept the RJD’s terms,” CPI-ML state secretary Kunal told this newspaper.
Kunal asserted that with polls reaching closer it was high time for the RJD to decide whether it wanted “to defeat the NDA or to downsize us”.
CPM state secretary Awadhesh Kumar also held the view that the number of seats allotted to the Left parties should be respectable.
Meanwhile, the Left parties have started mulling the option to contest the polls together or to go solo.
All six of them had contested the 2015 Assembly elections in a bid to provide a third option to voters away from the Grand Alliance and the NDA. They could muster only around 3.5 per cent votes in the state, with only the CPI-ML managing to win three seats.