The RJD has decided not to make any further statement on the leadership of the JD(U), Congress, RJD alliance in Bihar ahead of the bye-elections to the ten Assembly seats.
The move comes after comments of Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi that Nitish Kumar would be the Chief Minister if the newly forged alliance secures a majority in next year's Assembly elections.
Seeking to play down the controversy, leaders of the alliance said their present priority was to win all ten seats in the bye-elections and the leadership issue would be decided after Assembly elections next year.
Leaders of the three parties said programmes were being chalked out for a joint rally of Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and some senior Congress leader like its general secretary CP Joshi.
"The challenge before us at the moment is to ensure victory of our candidates on all ten Assembly seats in the August 21 bye-election... it is not the right time to talk about leadership of the alliance... we shall avoid making such statements," RJD Bihar president Ramchandra Purbe said.
"The choice of Chief Minister of the alliance will be decided after the polls next year by senior leaders like Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Sonia Gandhi," he said. Efforts would be made during the Assembly elections next year to expand the secular alliance by bringing more parties who are opposed to the BJP, Purbe said.
Congress vice-president and the party's media in-charge Prem Chand Mishra said candidate for the Chief Minister's post "is not on our agenda today." With Manjhi's comments about Nitish Kumar triggering an intense political debate, JD(U) Bihar chief Basistha Narayan Singh said there was no "bickering" among the allies on the topic as Manjhi had only stated the resolution of JD(U) Legislature party at the time of deciding the change of leadership in the wake of general election debacle.
"Manjhi made the comments in the context of his party JD(U), whose legislators had taken a resolution in May during change of Chief Minister, that the next Assembly polls will be fought under the leadership of Nitish Kumar," Singh said.
Endorsing the allies' views, Basistha Narayan Singh said, "The leadership issue will be decided by senior leaders of partner parties smoothly." State presidents of JD(U), RJD and Congress would begin the combine's campaign for by-poll from Mohania tomorrow.
"We are meeting today to discuss on the joint rally tomorrow and also campaign programmes of other leaders including Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and C P Joshi," Basistha Narayan Singh said adding, "There will be at least one joint rally of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar." Prem Chand Mishra of the Congress said his party does not have any aversion in sharing dais with Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.
Purbe said the RJD president would hit the campaign trail after Rakshabandhan festival on Sunday. Meanwhile, the BJP has lapped up the discord notes between JD(U), RJD and Congress on the leadership issue to show that the alliance was fragile and the party has already launched its campaign with its senior leader Sushil Kumar Modi and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav seeking votes for party nominees in the bye-elections.
Union ministers Radha Mohan Singh, Ravishankar Prasad and leaders of the NDA alliance including LJP president and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief and Union Minister for State Upendra Kushwaha would join the campaign from Friday.