With only a couple of months left for the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress, the RJD and the LJP are yet to forge an alliance for the battle for Bihar's 40 seats.
Despite several rounds of talks and meetings in the last one month, no decision has yet been taken by the Congress, leaving the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) worried. "Seat sharing talks have not got finalised and may take more time. But if required, the Congress can contest all 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar," Congress leader Sadanand Singh has said.
The dilly dallying by the Congress vis-a-vis old friends RJD and LJP is giving sleepless nights to RJD stalwart and former chief minister Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan.
Both Lalu Prasad and Paswan are hoping for a strong alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), now that the BJP's 1ong alliance with the Janata Dal-United is over. The BJP is banking on what it says is a Narendra Modi wave while Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is hoping to lead the JD-U to victory. "A secular alliance of the Congress-RJD-LJP should be clear as soon as possible as it will send out a positive massage. Delays are not good," RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh warned.
Raghuvansh Singh, the RJD MP from Vaishali, told IANS that a Congress-RJD-LJP combine would have a clear edge over both the BJP and the JD-U. "Uncertainty over the alliance is giving advantage to the BJP and the JD-U," added LJP leader Pasupati Kumar Paras.
RJD MP Ram Kirpal Yadav said Lalu Prasad was prepared for "any sacrifice" to bring about the three-party alliance. "Laluji is ready to sacrifice anything for a secular formation but others are still bargaining," he said, without naming the Congress as the guilty party.
Another RJD leader, however, said that seat sharing talks had reached the final stage. "The RJD has agreed to contest 20 of the 40 seats, leaving the rest to others," he said. The source said the Congress would put up candidates for 12 seats, the LJP for seven and the Katihar seat would be left for Nationalist Congress Party's Tariq Anwar.
But the Congress and the LJP appear to be demanding more seats for themselves.
At least half a dozen parliamentary seats are the main bone of contention among the Congress, the RJD and the LJP. Both the RJD and the Congress are eyeing Madhubani. RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui wants to contest from there as he narrowly lost it to the BJP in 2009.
Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad is equally keen to be fielded in Madhubani as he won it in 2004.
In the Samastipur (reserved) constituency, the LJP and the Congress are at loggerheads. LJP's Ram Chandra Paswan, brother of Ram Vilas Paswan, and Ashok Kumar of the Congress want the seat. Other seats that have led to squabbles are Khagaria, Kishanganj, Araria and Ara.
Unlike in 2009, Lalu Prasad appears quite serious in forging an alliance with the Congress and the LJP. His aides say he has learnt a bitter lesson since the last Lok Sabha election when he contemptuously offered only three seats to the Congress.
In December, after being released on bail in the fodder scam, Lalu Prasad, who broke his alliance with the Congress in 2009, said he would not repeat the mistake. In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-RJD-LJP combine won 29 Lok Sabha seats. But fighting separately in 2009, the RJD got only four seats, the Congress two and the LJP none.