Size of Bihar mahagathbandhan puts RJD at disadvantage in home state as allies demand large share of seats

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Patna: The swell of the Grand Alliance in Bihar is proving to be a disadvantage for the RJD. Nobody is sure when the seat-sharing formula is going to be announced.

“It’s just a matter of time. The number of seats does not count. Defeating the BJP is the thrust,” remarked Congress legislator and spokesperson Premchandra Mishra.

However, RJD leaders claim that unreasonable “demands” are being made by its allies — Congress, RLSP, HAM(S), Sharad Yadav and Mukesh Sahani’s Vikasheel Insaaf Party.

Last Sunday former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi met Lalu Prasad Yadav in Ranchi and demanded four of the 40 seats. Laluji asked him to name his candidates. Manjhi was unable to provide the names,” revealed an ex-MP of RJD stressing that at present if the demands of all the allies are to be met 70 Lok Sabha seats would be required.

“Unfortunately, Bihar has only forty seats”, he added.

The impact of having “too many allies” is already unfolding as the two main left parties — CPI and CPI-ML — have already announced candidates in a number of seats.

The RJD had hoped to rope in former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati in the hope to gain strength in areas located near the Uttar Pradesh border and had offered the Gopalganj parliamentary seat to BSP. However, BSP has decided not to join the crowd and fight it alone in Bihar.

The two main parties of the Grand Alliance — RJD and Congress — still have to agree on numbers. According to sources in Congress, the party had put forward the same formula BJP and JD(U) have adapted contesting an equal number of seats and leaving the rest to other allies. Its proposal was to give 15 seats each to the two parties and divide the rest 10 seats among the other allies.

“The proposal was rejected by Lalu stressing that Bihar was the only state where his party can hope for seats and that the Congress should focus on states where it was capable of taking on the BJP alone,” said a senior RJD leader stressing that the RJD would like Congress to contest in only 8 of the 40 seats because the latter does not have sufficient winnable candidates.

“Laluji has stressed that the seats won by RJD would be helping Congress to form the government at the Centre if BJP is defeated,” he added.

Congress’ demand for more seats is being mocked by other allies. “My party and Congress should be given an equal number of seats as the Congress does not have a base in Bihar,” remarked Manjhi.

However, Congress leaders are questioning Manjhi’s inflated demand for four seats. They pointed out that Manjhi failed to deliver in the NDA when he was given more than 22 seats in the 2015 Assembly polls and managed to win only one seat which he contested.

The chief of RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha has been demanding at least five seats stressing that he was already offered three seats in the NDA camp and that he was the leader of Kushwaha caste, the second largest backward caste after the Yadavs in Bihar.

However, RJD leaders stress that the former Union minister is yet to establish his credentials as a leader as he failed to deliver in the 2015 Assembly polls as well when he was with the NDA.

Meanwhile, Mukesh Sahani, a son of Mallah whose rags to riches story has been an inspiration to many, has also demanded three seats but the RJD is reluctant to give him more than just the Darbhanga seat.

“The ground reality is that all the allies depend on RJD’s vote bank for victory. The RJD should be allowed to play the major partner in Bihar,” said the RJD ex-MP.

He pointed out that allies like Manjhi and Kushwaha are looked at with suspicion because they were with the NDA and there is no surety they will not switch sides if there is a hung Parliament.

Three months ago when RLSP, HAM and Mukesh Sahani deserted the NDA to join the Grand Alliance, the RJD had claimed that the alliance was gaining strength before the Lok Sabha polls. But today, with the NDA already finalising its seat-sharing, they are worried. The man who will make the final call is in Ranchi.

“He is still holding his cards close to his chest. His track record is that he announces his seats so late that it leaves the allies little alternative but to take what he has offered. He is likely to do the same this time also,” said a close associate of Lalu expressing hope that Congress will not repeat the folly of walking out as it did in 2009 when Lalu offered it only three seats.

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