Parties fail to agree on seats to be contested

Talks between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to forge an electoral alliance in Bihar have hit a rough patch, and the chances of both contesting separately are high, sources in both the parties told The Hindu.

Both parties are finding it difficult to agree on the seats that each will contest. “The only good thing at the moment is that we have not stopped talking,” a Congress source said.

The LJP had walked out of talks with the Congress and announced an alliance with the BJP on Thursday. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the CPI are in alliance in the State that has 40 seats in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress source said RJD chief Lalu Prasad would formally give the Congress a list of 13 or 14 seats that he would be willing to concede by Saturday.

In discussions so far, Mr .Prasad has only offered high risk seats to the Congress, where the presence of Yadavs and Muslims, the core social combination that sustains the alliance, is negligible. “We said let there be a sharing that involves both parties contesting good and bad seats,” the Congress leader said.

What has tied the RJD chief’s hand is the simmering revolt in the party, by MLAs who are hoping to contest the Lok Sabha election. Thirteen of his 22 MLAs had revolted recently, though Mr. Prasad later managed to hold back nine of them. If the rebellion within the RJD attracts 15 MLAs, they can form a separate bloc.

The Madhubani seat the Congress wants for former Union Minister Shakeel Ahmad is particularly a bone of contention as the RJD’s Abdul Bari Siddiqui is unwilling to let it go.

Meanwhile, a section in the Congress is arguing that the party must go it alone. “In alliance or otherwise, now the chances are bleak. By contesting all the seats alone, at least we will make our presence felt across the state,” a Congress leader said.