Bihar Mahagathbandhan announced

Our Bureau/Agencies New Delhi/Patna | Updated on March 29, 2019

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav denies rift in the Grand Alliance


Protracted negotiations over seat-sharing finally ended in Bihar on Friday with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) announcing its Mahagathbandhan of different backward castes and Dalit parties with the Congress. Announcing the seat-sharing formula, the RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav asserted that the reports about a rift in the Grand Alliance are false and the “Mahagathbandhan is intact”.

According to Yadav, the caste alignments include the RJD with its allies Jitan Ram Manjhi of the Dalit-based Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), the Koeris represented by Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata (RLSP), the newly-formed Mallah (boatmen) grouping called the Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Congress. The RJD, which represents the dominant Yadavs and the Muslims, gets to contest 20 of the 40 seats in Bihar, the Congress gets nine, the RLSP will contest five, the VIP and HAM will contest three each. The RJD will give one seat to the radical left CPI(ML).

The Congress will announce its candidates separately. As per reports, BJP’s star MP Shatrughan Sinha, who switched over to the Congress this week, will contest the Patna Sahib seat against BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, former Minister Tariq Anwar will contest from Katihar and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar from Sasaram. RJD leaders Misa Bharti and Abdul Bari Siddiqui will contest from Pataliputra and Darbhanga respectively.

The announcement of Abdul Bari Siddiqui’s name from Darbhanga douses speculations about the possibility of sitting MP Kirti Azad seeking re-election as a Congress candidate, who recently joined the party after quitting the BJP.

Brewing resentment

Speculation was rife that the absence of senior Congress leaders at the press conference, where former MLC Narendra Kumar Singh was a representative, is an indication of its leadership being sore over being arm-twisted by the RJD to give up its claim on the seat, resulting in an embarrassment to AICC chief Rahul Gandhi, who inducted Azad with fanfare.

Although Siddiqui is a senior leader and has held important ministries besides having served as Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, his candidature has also ruffled the feathers of RJD strongman Ashraf Fatmi, who has represented Darbhanga a number of times and was the runner-up in 2014.

Tejashwi Yadav also announced that the RJD would be fielding Tanveer Hassan in Begusarai, a decision that may queer the pitch for CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar who is taking on firebrand BJP leader Giriraj Singh.

“Our candidates for the 18 constituencies are final. We will do the same for Sheohar in the next few days while we are leaving Ara in favour of the CPI(ML),” Yadav said.

Withholding the name on Sheohar seat could be seen as an attempt to mollify Tej Pratap Yadav, who resigned from the post of patron of the RJD student’s wing on Thursday to push candidatures of his favourites Angesh Kumar and Chandra Prakash from Sheohar and Jehanabad, respectively.

Published on March 29, 2019

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