Tie-up will consolidate the Muslim vote in Bihar: Congress sources
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the second time this month on Monday afternoon in Delhi, amid reports that the two parties are close to clinching a “secular alliance” in Bihar. This alliance, Congress sources said, would ensure the consolidation of the Muslim vote in the State.
The meeting between Mr. Yadav and Mr. Gandhi comes a day after Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh met Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan to discuss the issue of joining the alliance. Mr. Singh had also spoken to Mr. Yadav recently.
In a recent interview, Mr Singh said, “We are making every effort to ensure that we have a tie-up with Lalu and Paswan soon.” Defending the party’s decision to go with Mr. Yadav, who was convicted in the fodder scam, he had said the party was coming to an arrangement with a party, not an individual.
And when Mr. Gandhi met delegates from Bihar on January 18, a day after the AICC session, virtually all pressed for an electoral alliance. A majority expressed a preference for an arrangement with the RJD to fight the resurgent BJP, rather than the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United. In 2004, the Congress-LJP-RJD alliance won 29 seats in Bihar. In 2009, the alliance broke, and the three together were reduced to six.
Even though there was a stage when it appeared that the leadership preferred to go with the JD-U, for some weeks now, senior Congress functionaries have been saying that party workers in Bihar felt it would be more advantageous to go with the RJD. Senior Congress leaders now say that a decision on the alliance is expected “very soon.”
Discussions are now centred round the sharing of seats — Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha constituencies. Party sources said one of the formulae being discussed was for the RJD to contest 20 seats, the Congress 10, the LJP eight and the Nationalist Congress Party two. The RJD, however, is pushing to contest around 25 seats, leaving five to six for the LJP, seven for Congress, one for the NCP and one for the CPI(ML) — in the previous election, the RJD contested 28 seats.
Last week, in Patna, Mr. Kumar ruled out the possibility of a tie-up with the Congress, even as he made overtures to the LJP, calling Mr. Paswan a gentleman. The latter subsequently thanked Mr. Kumar for the praise, but said he was with the Congress, and would go with whichever party it chose to partner, RJD or JD-U.
Mr. Kumar, who had known of the impending Congress-RJD-LJP arrangement, had dismissed it as “nothing special.” But JD-U sources in Patna expressed concern saying the party may not be able to win more than five seats if such an alliance was forged.
While Mr. Yadav had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Paswan, too, called on the Congress chief a while back, urging her to take the lead in forming an alliance.