The RJD has kept 20 of the 40 seats for itself, while leaving nine for Congress, a respectable share considering the latter’s anaemic condition in the state and also because it has been promised a Rajya Sabha seat.
The other constituents — Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) — all newbies and members of the BJP-led NDA until recently, have done rather well for themselves too.
RLSP, led by Upendra Kushwaha and which is supposed to represent the Kushwahas, an important ‘backward’ caste, has managed to secure five seats. HAM, floated by former CM and Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, and VIP, founded by Mumbai-based businessman Mukesh Sahni who has tried to mobilise fishermen and boatmen, have got three seats each.
Their share was seen by many as disproportionate to the actual strength of the three fledgling outfits which had spectacularly failed at the hustings in the 2015 assembly elections they contested as BJP’s partners.
Some observers said RJD’s generosity reflected a recognition on the part of the leadership that its once capacious political tent had shrunk to its clout among Muslims and Yadavs, and that it needed allies to reach out to communities which were part of the vast social swathe comprising backward, most backward and Dalit categories.
In fact, with RJD agreeing to leave one seat for CPI (ML), it will be contesting less than half the seats — a first for a party which once loomed large over the state.
The seat-sharing deal also snuffs out the brief existence of Sharad Yadav as an independent player. RJD has agreed to nominate him but on the condition that he will contest on party’s lantern symbol after shuttering his Loktantrik Janata Dal.
Manjhi will contest from Gaya (reserved) while in a controversial move, RJD has fielded Vibha Devi, wife of party strongman Rajballabh Yadav who was convicted for raping a minor and has been disqualified from contesting polls, from Nawada.
For the assembly by-elections, Dhirendra Kumar Singh alias Munna Singh of HAM will contest from Nawada and Firoz Hussain of RJD from Dehri.
Addressing a press conference, RJD functionary and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Kumar Jha said final touches were being given to the remaining 36 seats for the grand alliance partners to contest the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar. “The list of these 36 parliamentary constituencies and the names of their respective candidates will be announced in the next 72 hours,” he said.
What has surprised observers is the lesser number of seats given to Congress compared to RLSP, HAM and VIP.
RJD sources said Lalu and his son Tejashwi Yadav had agreed to give 11 seats to Congress. However, Congress state campaign committee chairman and Rajya Sabha member Akhilesh Prasad Singh went public with it, which infuriated Lalu and Tejashwi, who pruned the seats so as to cut the wings of Akhilesh, who was also perceived to be close to Mokama MLA Anant Singh. The ‘bahubali’ MLA wanted to contest from Munger parliamentary seat on a Congress ticket, despite opposition from Lalu and Tejashwi.
Another theory doing the rounds is that RLSP was expected to be given three seats, while HAM and VIP one each. Now that their seats have been increased, it is believed that Lalu might ask the three parties to field RJD candidates on the extra seats given to them.