Tussle in Mahagathbandhan Over Bihar's Darbhanga Lok Sabha Seat
State Congress president Madan Mohan Jha said Darbhanga was an important seat but but a final call will be taken by the party's high command.
Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad, who was suspended by the ruling BJP for anti-party activities, joined the Congress last month. (Image: PTI)
Patna: The Darbhanga Lok Sabha seat, represented by former test cricketer Kirti Azad, who recently quit the BJP and joined the Congress, on Tuesday emerged as a new bone of contention in the opposition Grand Alliance in Bihar, with the RJD stating that it wished to field its veteran leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui from the seat.
The Lalu Prasad-led party contended that its candidate had lost the seat to the BJP by a thin margin in 2014.
"Darbhanga is our traditional seat. We have won it many times. Even in the 2014 polls, which were swept by the BJP-led NDA, our candidate lost the battle by a thin margin.
"We would therefore like to contest the seat again and field Abdul Bari Siddiqui this time. A formal announcement would be made shortly," RJD MLA and chief state spokesman Bhai Virendra said here.
Notably, senior RJD leader Mohd Ali Ashraf Fatmi won the seat in all Lok Sabha polls since 1991 except on three occasions - 1999, 2009 and 2014.
The party's decision to field Siddiqui - a senior leader who has formerly been the leader of the opposition in the Assembly and served as the finance minister - is seen as a move to placate the veteran, who is said to have been sulking over being sidelined following the entry of Lalu Prasad's sons Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav into active politics.
When asked about Bhai Virendra's statement, Siddiqui said, "I am a disciplined party worker. If the party asks me to contest from Darbhanga, I will put my heart, mind and soul into the fight."
Siddiqui had fought the 2014 election from Madhubani and lost to Hukum Deo Narayan Yadav of the BJP.
State Congress president Madan Mohan Jha, when approached with queries about the RJD's claim, said Darbhanga was an "important seat", but a final call will be taken by the party's high command.
The Congress had last won the seat way back in 1980. Elaborating further on the party's dilemma, Congress leader Rishi Mishra - whose grandfather Lalit Narayan Mishra was a minister in Indira Gandhi's cabinet and is said to be the tallest leader in the Mithila region where Darbhanga falls claimed that Maithil Brahmins in the constituency are traditional supporters of his party.
"Darbhanga can be called the epicenter of Mithila region and Maithil Brahmins have traditionally been Congress supporters. We must respect their sentiments.
"If a Maithil Brahmin like Kirti Azad does not fight from Darbhanga, what is the point in fielding him from some other region," he said.
Mishra's statement came in the wake of unconfirmed reports that the Congress was mooting to give Azad a ticket from Dhanbad in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, if the RJD remained adamant on Darbhanga.
Kirti Azad's father Bhagwat Jha Azad was a veteran Congress leader, who served as as the chief minister of the state for a brief but eventful tenure in the 1980s.
Interestingly, former Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahni - whose six-month-old Vikassheel Insaan Party has been allocated three seats within the Grand Alliance - was also said to have been initially keen on Darbhanga, which has a sizeable Nishad population.
Darbhanga goes to polls in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections for which filing of nominations would commence on April 2, while voting will take place on April 29.
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