The Congress on Sunday began the formal seat-sharing talks with its allies in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), with an aim to reach a “reasonable and respectable” arrangement in order to unitedly take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, people familiar with the matter said.
The Congress’s five-member national alliance committee (NAC), headed by senior leader Mukul Wasnik, initiated the seat-sharing talks with authorised leaders of the JD(U) and the RJD in New Delhi, in a development that comes after several rounds of deliberations within the party, leaders of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) said.
“The NAC is armed with statistics of past elections, party workers’ aspirations and worked out winnability factors for each and every seat before embarking on the seat-sharing exercise. We are ready to compromise but not willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of keeping INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc intact,” a senior AICC leader familiar with the development said, requesting anonymity.
The first round of talks was held on a positive note, the senior leader said, adding that the party is hoping that an all-agreeable solution would emerge in the talks with JD(U) leader Sanjay Kumar Jha and RJD leader Manoj Jha.
“All is well. The talks were positive,” Manoj Jha said after the first round of deliberations at the AICC office in Delhi.
Leaders of the ruling grand alliance in Bihar had earlier indicated that of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, 17 each are likely to be allotted to the JD(U) and the RJD. The Congress is likely to get five seats and the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) Liberation may get one seat to contest the general elections.
The Congress is aiming to complete the seat-sharing arrangements with other parties of the opposition INDIA bloc across the country by the month-end.
“Five Lok Sabha seats for the Congress party in Bihar are too less to be contented for the party workers. We had contested nine seats [in 2019] and won one in alliance with the RJD & left parties. The JD(U) had contested 17 seats as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and won 16. Forgoing any sitting seat is certainly a challenging thing for any party. This time, however, the situation is different and so are the challenges,” the senior AICC leader cited above said.
“But, the Congress, which is striving hard to counter the BJP everywhere in the country, won’t be willing to let the party workers down,” the leader added.
The Opposition alliance will be looking to halt the BJP’s juggernaut in Bihar, where the NDA won 39 of the 40 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP won all 17 seats it contested. Six were won by the unified Lok Janshakti Party, which has since split into two factions.
Citing the “positive mood” of discussions at the AICC office, a Bihar Congress leader, who is currently in New Delhi, said the party would definitely try to get an “honourable deal” in the seat-sharing exercise, which could be not less than six or seven seats. “This is a reasonable demand, as the Congress needs to give representation to each section of the society,” the Bihar PCC leader said, also declining to be named.