The RJD and the Congress today said they had worked out a formula for jointly contesting the three upcoming by-polls in Bihar. RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav and acting state Congress president Kaukab Qadri told reporters here the Rashtriya Janata Dal would field candidates for the Araria Lok Sabha and the Jehanabad Assembly seats. The Congress will contest from the Bhabhua Assembly constituency. The by-polls, necessitated by the death of the incumbents, will take place on March 11. The last date for filing of nominations is February 20.
While the RJD held the Araria and Jehanabad seats, Bhabua was with the BJP. The by-elections are the first major political event in the state after the July 2017 disintegration of the ruling Grand Alliance comprising the JD(U), RJD and Congress. As the alliance collapsed, JD(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined hands with the BJP to form and lead a coalition ministry in Bihar. The RJD and Congress stayed together as the main opposition to the coalition ministry. The electoral pact comes in the wake of discordant voices raised by some leaders of the two parties, signalling cracks in their partnership. Yadav and Qadri rejected suggestions of strains in the alliance.
“There was no strain in our alliance at any stage, though such rumours were being floated by our adversaries. We will contest the by-polls jointly and the RJD will field its candidates in the Araria Lok Sabha seat and the Jahanabad assembly segment. The Congress will contest the Bhabhua Vidhan Sabha seat,” Yadav told reporters. Yadav, son of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, said the party has decided to field Sarfaraz Alam from Araria and Suday Yadav from Jahanabad. Alam, who quit the JD(U) last week to join the RJD, is the son of Mohammad Taslimuddin, whose death necessitated the by-poll in the Lok Sabha seat.
Suday Yadav is the son of Mundrika Yadav, after whose death the Jahanabad Assembly seat fell vacant. Qadri said the Congress candidate for Bhabhua would be declared later. “The Congress will help the RJD win both the seats emphatically and attain a handsome victory in Bhabhua with the support of our long-time ally,” Qadri said. The two leaders said the parties were committed to defeating “communal forces” represented by the BJP and took a dig at Nitish Kumar, saying the decision by his Janata Dal (United) to stay away from by-polls was tantamount to his having “conceded defeat”.
Earlier this week, the RJD had indicated it was thinking of fielding its candidates in all the three seats where by-polls were due. The Congress had taken exception to that, saying it would contest from Bhabhua, where the party was the runner-up in the 2015 Assembly polls, even if the RJD insisted on fielding its own candidate from there. The NDA, comprising JD(U), BJP, RLSP and HAM, is yet to declare its seat-sharing formula and candidates for the by-polls. “Lalu (RJD’s jailed national president) has been a valued ally since the UPA days. Together we shall defeat the communal forces represented by the BJP. But we are amazed to see the capitulation of Kumar before the BJP. So much for his claims of his party’s mass base.” Qadri said.