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2-min read

Congress Adds Heavyweights to Bihar Poll Lineup For Hard Seat-Sharing Bargain With RJD

The Congress is in talks with former BJP MP from Purnia, Uday Singh, who had quit the party five days ago and given hints that he may join the grand alliance in Bihar.

News18.com

Updated:January 23, 2019, 7:49 PM IST
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Congress Adds Heavyweights to Bihar Poll Lineup For Hard Seat-Sharing Bargain With RJD
File photo of Tejashwi Yadav with Rahul Gandhi.

New Delhi: Amid speculation of tension over seat-sharing in Bihar, the Congress party is looking to add several heavyweights to its lineup for the general elections to strengthen its bargaining position against the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

According to sources, the Congress is in talks with former BJP MP from Purnia, Uday Singh, who had quit the party five days ago and given hints that he may join the grand alliance in Bihar. The saffron party’s disgruntled Darbhanga MP, Kirti Azad, too may soon switch sides and get a Congress ticket.

The Congress may also field former RJD leader Pappu Yadav’s wife Ranjeet Ranjan and Lovely Anand as its Lok Sabha candidates, a development that has peeved the RJD.

According to media reports, the RJD has objected to these possible inductions. An RJD functionary said his party was upset with the news. “We have conveyed our displeasure about these tainted people to [the] Congress,” he said.

Apart from the new additions, the Congress will also rely on its old hands like former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who is likely to contest from Sasaram again. Former MP Tariq Anwar, who recently returned to the Congress fold, is also a strong contender.

Sensing a revival in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh following the wins in Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the Congress is seeking a better deal from its partners. This, despite the RJD wanting an upper hand in the distribution of seats among the two.

The Congress’ unwillingness to reduce its demands had led to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) leaving the Congress out of their alliance in Uttar Pradesh, saying the poll arithmetic dictated the agreement. In Bihar too, the RJD is not willing to give in to the Congress’s demand for more seats, according to people in the know of things.

A Bihar Congress functionary said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s meeting with BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav this month should also be seen in context of the rising tensions between the allies and a bid to convey the message to the grand old party.

However, even as he hailed the SP-BSP alliance, Tejashwi said the Congress was "best equipped" to lead the opposition's charge against the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. But he added that the Congress would have to handle its leadership role with "large-heartedness" and accommodate regional parties.

Meanwhile, the tensions prompted Congress’s Bihar in-charge, Shaktisinh Gohil, to meet Tejashwi on Monday to iron out the differences between the two.

Gohil dismissed suggestions of any rift with the RJD and insisted the Congress will take a call on all proposals after consulting its alliance partner. He said all the constituents of Grand Alliance were on the same page and there was no misunderstanding among the opposition parties who have united to take on the BJP.

In a show of strength, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will hold a rally on February 3 in Patna. It is the first such public meeting the Congress is organising in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan in decades. ​

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