Bihar’s ruling JD(U) and RJD will contest 100 seats each and leave 40 for the Congress, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced today as the three parties formalised their alliance for the state assembly polls.
Kumar, who announced the coming into being of the ‘Grand Secular Alliance’ in the presence of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Congress general secretary in-charge of Bihar C P Joshi, said no decision has been taken with regard to three seats of the 243 in the assembly and indicated those may go to NCP.
Kumar said NCP had sided with JD(U)-RJD combine during the recently-held legislative council polls and the secular alliance partners would want Sharad Pawar’s party to join them.
No seats have been set aside for Samajwadi Party whose president Mulayam Singh Yadav had brokered peace between Kumar and Lalu to pave the way for formation of the alliance to take on BJP, which together with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, is making a determined bid to dislodge JD(U) after a 10-year stint in power.
Replying to a question about no seats being left for Samajwadi Party to contest, Lalu said,”He is my Samdhi (a relative) and if need be I will accommodate him.”
Mulayam has been anointed to lead the ‘Janata Parivar’ after six constituents of the erstwhile Janata Dal—SP, JD(U), JD(S), RJD, INLD and Samajwadi Janata Party formally merge.
The Chief Minister said the alliance partners would chalk out a Common Minimum Programme and undertake joint campaign.
All partners of the secular alliance had contested seats far in excess of what they have agreed to now during the 2010 assembly polls.
JD(U), which was in alliance with BJP in 2010 polls, had contested 141 seats and won 115. BJP had fielded candidates in 102 and clinched 91.
RJD had set up candidates in 168 places and managed to win only 22, while going alone Congress had contested all 243 seats but could win only four.
In 2014 Parliamentary election, RJD, Congress and NCP had contested together and managed to win seven out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
JD(U), which went to the hustings with the Left parties, had won only two seats.
The disastrous performance of the three secular alliance constituents in the Lok Sabha elections is seen as the primary motivating factor for their coming together.
Both JD(U) and RJD have fully backed the Congress during its tense face off with the Narendra Modi government over Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam during the monsoon session of Parliament.
Lalu described his party’s decision to settle for only 100 seats as a “compromise for a cause”. “In spite of the differences (over the number of seats) my party has come to the conclusion that to keep communal and fascist forces away it has to move ahead by accomodating others,” he said.
Congress general secretary and former Union minister C P Joshi said his party joined the secular alliance as it considered Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the biggest threat” to the country.
The leaders also announced that the first joint rally of the alliance will be held in Patna on August 30 but there was no clarity yet on whether Congress president Sonia Gandhi or her deputy Rahul will attend.
“These are part of strategy which we will let the media know through a separate press conference later on,” Joshi, who was accompanied by state Congress President Ashok Choudhary, told reporters.
Sonia and Rahul had avoided sharing dais with Lalu during the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls after the RJD boss’ conviction in a fodder scam case and subsequent bar on his contesting elections.
Lalu used the opportunity to attack Prime Minister Modi and BJP over their warning of “jungle raj” returning to the state if JD(U)-RJD combine won the elections, saying “Demolition of Babri Masjid and Gujarat riots were examples of ‘mangal raj’ and when I gave voice to poor during RJD rule it was dubbed as ‘jungle raj’.”
Responding to claims being made by political rivals that the alliance will prove short-lived, Kumar said,”BJP is trying to spread doubts about us but they will not succeed. We are together and remain together.”