The Congress on Saturday came out with the names of its candidates for eight out of 24 seats in Bihar legislative council for which polls are scheduled next month, in a clear signal to domineering former ally RJD that it was unwilling to go down without a fight.
The list of eight candidates was issued by AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik with the approval of party president Sonia Gandhi, with whom RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s excellent personal rapport has proved to be of no avail.
Polling is scheduled for the 24 seats on April 4.
Among the seats for which the Congress came out with names of its candidates is West Champaran (Mohd Afaq Ahmed). The Congress had won the seat in 2015 but its MLC Rajesh Ram crossed over to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) last year.
“We understand this is the first list. More names, for other seats, are expected shortly”, state Congress media in-charge Rajesh Rathore told PTI.
The RJD, which had rebuffed the Congress in October last year when it fielded its candidates for by-polls to two assembly polls ignoring protestations of the latter, is contesting 23 seats, leaving one for the Left.
The Congress-RJD alliance in Bihar, which has been in place for more than two decades despite minor ups and downs, is going through a rough patch since the assembly elections of 2020.
The Grand Alliance comprising the two parties besides CPI(ML), CPI(M), and CPI put up a better than expected performance but fell short of a majority.
The Congress was singled out for its poor performance as it had contested 70 seats but could win less than 20. Things reached a flashpoint during by-polls for Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan assembly segments.
There have been speculations in a section of the media that the RJD has been cross with the Congress over the induction of CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar who is seen as a potential rival to Prasad’s son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav.
Terms of the 24 seats had expired in July last year but the elections were delayed since fresh panchayats and urban local bodies could not be elected within time on account of the COVID pandemic.
Half of the two dozen poll-bound seats had been won by the BJP last time. Its alliance partner, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), had eight. The RJD held two while another seat was won by an independent candidate.
The NDA has its own share of problems with smaller allies Vikassheel Insaan Party, headed by minister Mukesh Sahni and Hindustani Awam Morcha of former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi expressing resentment over being ignored.
The NDA is yet to announce its candidates, though it has come out with a formula of seat-sharing wherein the BJP will be contesting 13 seats while the JD(U) will fight the remaining 11.