New Delhi: The Bihar opposition grand alliance announced its seat sharing formula for all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state for the upcoming general elections, with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) contesting from 20 seats and Congress acquiescing to fight on only nine.
Curiously missing from the list was former Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union’s president and prominent face of young Left politics, Kanhaiya Kumar, who had said last year he would contest from Begusarai constituency on a Communist Party of India (CPI) ticket.
Early this month, CPI had said it would accept nothing less than three to four Lok Sabha seats under the Bihar grand alliance seat-sharing formula. Left parties, however, have been ignored by the alliance, with CPI and CPI(M) not featuring in the list altogether and CPIML only getting one seat out of RJD’s quota of 20 seats.
“This is political cheating. They (the grand alliance) have betrayed us,” said Satya Narain Singh, CPI state secretary.
“They had committed to an alliance a year back. I had met Lalu Yadav thrice, talked to him on telephone, talked to Tejaswi. They had assured us of the alliance. At a October 25 rally, RJD state president Ramchandra Purve and RJD leader Tanvir Hasan said we must fight together. Now they have run away,” Singh told News18.
The CPI state secretary reiterated the party’s intent to contest from Begusarai and said both Kanhaiya and CPI were ready, alliance or no alliance.
“They have shut us out, but we will definitely fight Begusarai and our preparations are on.” Singh said CPI will hold a party meet on March 24 and decide its Bihar strategy. In addition to Kanhaiya from Begusarai, the party might also contest from Madhubani, Motihari and Khagaria.
According to sources, the Congress was keen to bring the Left parties on board the Mahagathbandhan but the RJD was averse to it.
Singh said there were several factors why Kanhaiya's ticket for Lok Sabha polls was blocked by the grand alliance. The CPI state secretary claimed there was an "anti-Kanhaiya caucus" in Delhi, RJD affiliates in JNU, who do not want to see him win and become a parliamentarian.
"Some of the students who came out of from JNU, Dilip Mandal, Jayant Jigyasu and Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar Manoj Jha - they have a problem with Kanhaiya. They know that if Kanhaiya wins, their influence in Delhi left circles will be reduced," Singh said.
According to Singh, RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha, believed to be close to Tejashwi, had told the former Bihar Deputy CM that Kanhaiya's win in Lok Sabha would create "a big obstacle" for him in the next Bihar Assembly elections.
"Another factor is that corporate companies also don't want Kanhaiya to win and come to parliament, because he will create trouble for corporates," Singh added.
CPI said that the party was set to be a partner grand alliance and Kanhaiya had personally received Lalu Yadav's blessings to contest from Begusarai.
RJD state president Purve said the decision to not give a single seat to CPI and CPI(M) was taken after considerable discussion amid the grand alliance partners.
“We have offered one seat to CPI-ML. The senior leaders of the alliance came to a decision after talks about seat sharing. Tejaswi Yadav, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Congress leaders came to an understanding over seat distribution and the list is based on that,” Purve said.
News18 tried to reach out to Kanhaiya, but the former JNUSU president remained unavailable for comments. The young left leader had shot to limelight as a JNU student in 2016 when he was arrested on sedition charges, accused of raising anti-India slogans at a rally.
Since then, Kanhaiya, alongside other JNU students Shehla Rashid Shora and Umar Khalid, have emerged as the faces of new left politics in the country.
The student leader, on the back of his viral fiery speeches from the JNU campus, carved himself a political space in the voice against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. His political debut, however, seems to have started on rough ground.
Kanhaiya’s firebrand stance made him popular, but it might also become the obstacle on his political debut. Sanjay Kumar, Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and an electoral politics researcher, said that it was likely the Congress alliance wanted to stay away from the radicalism that the student leader represents.
“They are trying to play safe and don’t want to be seen as a group or party which takes an extreme stance,” Kumar said. “Even though the charges may be frivolous, but the tag of ‘anti-national’ has been levelled against Kanhaiya. UPA does not want take sides with someone who is seen as very radical,” he added.
Kumar also said the repudiation from the Bihar grand alliance served as a lesson in realpolitik to Kanhaiya. “The message is very clear. You need to wait. You shouldn’t try to be a hero overnight.”
“The CPI has been shown their place and Mr Kanhaiya Kumar has been shown his place,” said Devesh Kumar, BJP state vice president. “This was cakewalk for NDA in Begusarai before, and it remains a cakewalk now.”
The BJP leader called the ‘mahagathbandan’ a ‘mahaconfusion’, and said the seat sharing decision of the alliance was slap on the face of Left parties.
“The Left is not even a part of the alliance. Parties that have no base in Bihar have hit the jackpot. What will happen to CPI-ML? Mr Lalu Yadav, I’m told, wanted CPI-ML on board but they are not there. They wanted two seats at least — Arrah and Siwan; they only got one from RJD’s kitty.”