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Grand alliance: Bihar seat talks to gather pace after Lok Sabha session  1 Week ago

Source:   Times Of India  

(This article was originally published by The Economic Times on 11/02/2019.)

PATNA: The partners of the opposition grand alliance in Bihar are likely to sit down by the end of next week on a fresh round of discussion over seat sharing for the Lok Sabha election.

The alliance comprises Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, RLSP, Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) and HAM.

While Tejashwi Yadav is busy with RJD’s ‘Berojgari Hatao, Aarakshan Badhao (end unemployment, raise reservation)’ campaign, Congress is waiting for the end of the ongoing session of Parliament on February 13, to give the final shape to the seatsharing arrangement.

In the first phase of talks, RJD wants to sort it out with Congress. “If the seats which Congress will contest are cleared, it will be easy for RJD to deal with other allies and the Left parties,” an RJD source told ET. Both RJD and Congress want to keep the Left parties in the alliance for their support base in certain pockets of the state.

The Left parties, though, may not get more than 2-3 seats to keep room for the other allies. “The problem with CPI is that it wants to retain its status as a national party and so, wants to contest at least six seats,” a source said. CPI aims for seats like Begusarai and Madhubani and wants to field former JNSU president Kanhaia Kumar from Begusarai. RJD, however, hasn’t shown interest in heeding to the CPI plans, a source said.

“CPM wants to field Ram Deo Verma from Ujiarpur,” a party source said. CPI (ML), on the other hand, wants to contest seats like Siwan, Ara, Karakat and Jahanabad. RLSP, another alliance partner, is aiming for the Jahanabad and Ujiarpur seats. Karakat may also go to RLSP as party chief Upendra Kushwaha is the sitting MP from there.

Unlike in the past, Congress is asserting its position to get those seats where it can win. There are a few seats where Congress’ interest reportedly clashes with that of RJD’s.

Sources said Congress is not against the idea of fielding Kirti Azad from Darbhanga. “But, VIP’s Mukesh Shahni is interested in Darbhanga, targeting fishing communities there,” a source said. RJD’s Muslim face AA Fatmi had won the seat in 2014. “Fatmi may be shifted to Madhubani.”

Congress may easily get seats like Sasaram, Aurangabad, Supaul, Katihar and Purnia. While former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar is considered to be a strong contender from Sasaram, Nikhil Kumar may be Congress’ choice for Aurangabad.

But, RJD’s Surendra Yadav has started his campaign for contesting from Aurangabad. Tariq Anwar, who recently defected to Congress from NCP, may fight from Katihar.

Motihari is another troubled zone where RLSP wants to contest targeting the Kushwaha voters. RJD is also keen on this seat.

The alliance has to decide if the Madhepura seat will be given to Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav. Sources said RJD may prefer to field Yadav on its own symbol from the seat. “This idea is under serious consideration of the RJD leadership,” a source said.
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