The political landscape of Bihar is set to change as the Congress, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party are in the final stages of putting together an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls.
While officially the Congress maintains that a decision on pre-poll alliance has to be taken by the party’s committee on alliances, headed by A K Anthony, highly-placed sources confirmed the alliance is certainly on the cards and would be announced by the end of January.
While the parties are busy tying up loose ends, the only hitch seems to be LJP’s demand for 16 out of the 40 parliamentary seats in the state. The RJD is keen to retain a majority of the seats, with the next largest share going to the Congress and then the LJP.
Senior party leaders of both the RJD and the Congress said they are confident that the LJP will ultimately see reason and settle for less.
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad had recently visited Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Prior to that, he had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
According to party insiders, Rahul Gandhi was initially wary of a tie-up with the RJD, especially in the aftermath of Prasad’s conviction in the fodder scam.
However, “the state leadership has prevailed upon Gandhi to firm up this alliance as in the past, in 2004, it had yielded good results.”
Then, the RJD had bagged 21 seats after a pre-poll alliance with the Congress. However, it was reduced to four seats in 2009, after alliance talks with the Congress broke down over differences in seat-sharing.
Prasad reportedly said he would not repeat this ‘mistake’.
Together, the RJD- LJP-Congress alliance in 2004 had bagged 29 seats.
A senior RJD leader said the Congress and RJD need each other in Bihar.
“The Congress has been virtually wiped out in the state and we are a regional party in the state. So we have certainly more grip on the ground. Moreover, this will firm up the minority vote for this alliance. The minorities don’t trust the JD-U (Janata Dal-United) for sure, which had been in alliance with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) for 17 years.”
He added, “This would once again be an opportunity for us to be tying up with the Congress -- a party with a pan-India presence.”
The RJD has the backing of Yadavs, who constitute 15.5 per cent of the total votes in the state.
A Congress leader, on the other hand, exuded confidence that the seat-sharing would settle at 20 or 22 seats for the RJD, 15 for the Congress and the remainder for the LJP.
The RJD is trying to convince the LJP to accept the formula, saying, “Take few seats but ensure you have strong candidates who can win instead of seeking to grab as many seats as possible.”
In the last elections, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan had suffered a humiliating defeat in his home turf Hajipur and the party could not win even a single seat.
But the Nitish Kumar-led state government’s move to leave out only the ‘Paswan’ community in the designation of Maha Dalits has led to vote consolidation in LJP’s favour.
Officially, the Congress is maintaining that the decision for pre-poll alliance has to be taken by the Congress committee on alliances headed by AK Anthony.
But highly-placed sources confirmed that the alliance is certainly on the cards and would be announced by month end.