Bihar election: Tussle in NDA, Grand Alliance over seat-sharing intensifies

By Anand Kumar Shah

Tussles in NDA

While the Election Commission may announce poll dates anytime, tussle over seat-sharing among all the parties has intensified. The dust has not settled yet, however.  Let us have a look at what all parties and alliance partners are proposing.

The NDA looks divided house. Several BJP leaders in the state publicly expressed their angst against chief minister Nitish Kumar and had demanded for “change of face” in Bihar assembly polls. However, the matter temporarily subsided after Amit Shah declared that Mr Kumar would be the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar. Further, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) attacked Mr Kumar on several fronts, including for his government’s “delayed and less than adequate response” in fighting coronavirus pandemic. On various occasions, there were verbal spats between the LJP and JDU leaders. JDU made it clear that it was in alliance with the BJP in Bihar, not the LJP. To diffuse the tension, the BJP has decided to allocate seats for LJP from its own quota under its 50-50 formula with JDU. Of the total assembly strength of 234, the LJP is likely to get 10 to 15 seats and Jiten Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) three to four seats. The remaining seats would be contested by BJP and JDU. It is yet to be seen whether the LJP fully agrees to the formula. The party wants demands seat-sharing formula on the basis of Lok Sabha seats it contested during the 2019 general elections. The party is claiming that since it had won six Lok Sabha seats, it should be given at least 36 assembly seats.

Fissures in Grand Alliance

Situation in Grand Alliance is more or less same. While the Congress and other components of the Grand Alliance –  the alliance between the RJD, Congress, Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) and Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP), led by Mukesh Sahani – accepted “bigger role” of the RJD in the elections, but they would definitely go “beyond a point” in terms of seat-sharing formula. According to a source, the RJD, which has currently 80 MLAs, plans to contest 160 seats triggering discontent among the alliance. Congress leader Sadanand Singh is said to have expressed his ‘angst” over the RJD’s claims. It is said that RLSP and VIP may have to be content with 25-30 seats from the Congress quota. It could be a tough choice for Kushwaha.

Left parties are likely to get seats from RJD quota. Senior state leaders of the CPI (ML), CPI and CPI (M) held final rounds of talks over seat-sharing with the RJD, demanding 53, 17 and 16 seats, respectively. The Left parties might get 22-25 seats in all.

On the other hand, Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) leader Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav, is ready to join the Grand Alliance “unconditionally” to dethrone JDU-BJP government. Yadav, who commands a great deal of influence in Seemanchal and Kosi regions of the state, has also appealed to the Congress to facilitate his party’s entry into the Mahagathbandhan. JAP had contested 64 seats but could not open its account. Yadav had floated the party following his expulsion from RJD.

Emergence of third front?

While the NDA and the Grand Alliance are the major formations, smaller parties are quietly trying to form a third front. Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) announced to contest 50 seats, mostly in Seemanchal region, seemingly to provide an alternative to its core constituency, Muslims, who mainly vote for RJD and Congress. Owaisi has also forged an alliance with Devendra Prasad Yadav’s Samajwadi Janata Dal (SJD). To add flavour, the Aam Adami Party (AAP) has also thrown its hat into the ring and is set to pitch Delhi model of development in poll campaign. Further, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), headed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, has reportedly talked to many AAP leaders with an aim to increase the strength of his formation. UDA includes former Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar, five-time MP from Jhanjharpur Devendra Prasad Yadav, former union minister Nagmani and several others.

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