Congress president Sonia Gandhi has put her stamp on electoral alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections. Her son and vice-president Rahul Gandhi had made efforts for tying up with chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U), but the majority view in the party led by Sonia Gandhi concluded that Nitish cannot stop the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s juggernaut.
Party sources told dna that Rahul had expressed reservations about an alliance with Lalu Prasad because of the latter’s conviction in the fodder scam as the Congress vice-president wants to maintain a clean image. He had forced the government to withdraw an ordinance promulgated to save Lalu Prasad from losing the Lok Sabha membership.
The Congress leadership in Bihar is banking on a sympathy vote for Lalu after his imprisonment. After they convinced Rahul about the pitfalls of going with Nitish, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh was rushed to Patna to negotiate on the seat-sharing formula with Lalu and Ram Vilas Paswan. Though Rahul confidant CP Joshi is the AICC general secretary in-charge for Bihar, the Congress leader had assigned the task of fine-tuning the seat- sharing arrangement to Digvijay Singh
The RJD will contest 22 of the 40 seats in the state while the Congress will fight 11. The LJP gets six seats. One seat of Katihar is left for Nationalist Congress Party leader and union minister of state for agriculture Tariq Anwar to contest.
Bihar will, thus, witness a triangular contest between Congress-RJD-LJP alliance, JD(U) and BJP. An alliance of the three parties romped home 29 of the 40 seats in 2004 elections. The alliance fell through in 2009, making the BJP-JD(U) alliance carry away 32 seats.
Later in the evening on Monday, Lalu Prasad called on Rahul and thanked him for the decision.