NO HEADWAY IN STRENGTHENING ANTI-NDA FRONT IN THE STATE
The relation between the Congress and the RJD has never been affable under the stewardship of Tejashvi Yadav, the person in hurry to govern Bihar. With Congress nursing soft corner towards the former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar the situation has turned more complicated. In fact emergence of Kanhaiya as the most potent and radical face in the opposition camp has turned out to be the element of envy amongst the opposition leaders and has been at the base of the recent crisis in opposition political camp.
The opposition unity has completely been in disarray. The leaders are even not bothered to maintain the façade of greater alliance (mahagathbandhan). The fact is almost all the allies have deserted the coalition and are actively working one another. The group leaders are not willing to openly indulge in game of accusations, in private they point the accusing finger towards Tejashvi. According to them he failed to perform the role of the leader of the alliance, the chief ministerial face of the magathbandhan.
Tejashvi nursed the feeling that being the son of Lalu Yadav, he was the de facto ruler of Bihar and his opposition colleagues must accept this fact and accordingly give him the respect he deserved. He treated himself first among the equals. True enough this was primary reason for turning the leaders hostile to his leadership and virtually disbanding the mahagathbandhan.
Tejashvi and his close aides even ill treated the Congress leadership. During the Lok Sabha elections the Congress reluctantly agreed to eight Parliamentary seats though it had demanded 12. It even conceded the Aurangabad seat where it had a strong candidate in former Delhi Police chief and Nagaland governor Nikhil Kumar. Incidentally RJD lost all the seats it contested but the Congress managed to win.
At that time Tejashvi had agreed to the formula that he would compensate the Congress claim. But now RJD is refusing to concede a Rajya Sabha seat, which Congress says was promised to it ahead of Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Five Rajya Sabha seats in Bihar will go to polls on 26 March. Of the five, three are with the JD(U) and two with the BJP but due to the assembly numbers, they will lose one seat each to the opposition. Of the two seats, the Congress is claiming one on the grounds that the RJD had promised it during seat-sharing agreement ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year.
This claim was dismissed even by the state RJD chief Jagdanand Singh; “There is a difference between a political statement and an agreement. I am unaware of any agreement of this sort”. Singh asserted; ‘the RJD would contest both the seats. Laluji will announce the names on an appropriate date”.
The relationship has strained to such an extent that the Congress party’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil had to write an open letter pointing out; “During the Lok Sabha polls, (RJD leader) Tejashwi Yadav had made the announcement (of the RS seat) at a joint press conference. There is a saying among good people that commitments are fulfilled even at the cost of life (Praan jaaye par vachan na jaaye). I hope RJD meets its commitment.”
No doubt the RJD had its long list of aspirants. But in the matter of greater interest of opposition unity, the major party cannot pursue a dogmatic political line. On the contrary Gohil’s letter has been taken as an act of affront by the RJD leadership.
RJD national spokesman Manoj Jha, said the “open letter” by Gohil, was “written with a closed mind” and asserted that the party was looking forward to staking its claim to two seats in Bihar where elections will be held for five Rajya Sabha seats. The Congress only a day ago had reminded RJD of the “promise” to help the party win a Rajya Sabha berth from the state where it lacks adequate numbers in the assembly to win a seat in the Upper House on its own.
The Congress is seeking one seat to field its candidate, Shatrughna Sinha, the Bihari Babu. Simmering discontent prevails in the Congress party. A senior Congress leader observed; “The RJD should honour its commitment and give the seat to us. An additional Rajya Sabha seat for the RJD does not have much meaning”. Sinha has already met Lalu in Ranchi jail some ten days ago and explored the chances of RJD supporting his candidature.
Nevertheless a section of the senior RJD leaders have sent a message to direct Tejashvi to work for revival of the mahagathbandhan. They hold the process of resurrection must start long before. It would send a strong message amongst the people of Bihar.
Nevertheless some leaders confide that the main reason for Tejashvi developing cold feet to the Congress demand has been the claim of some state Congress leaders to contest nearly 80 assembly seats in the ensuing elections. It is said that on 2 March, senior Congress leaders held a meeting and declared that they would recommend contesting 80 of the 243 assembly seats. This has irked the RJD leaders and particularly Tejashvi who looks at it as an open challenge to his leadership and authority. Now he has been the Rajya Sabha election as a tool to show the Congress its proper place in the state. The leaders argue that the assembly polls are at least six months away, but surprisingly the Congress has started airing its views. This according to them is nothing but a tactics to create pressure on RJD.
Basically this is the reason that even Lalu Yadav has been maintaining a silence on this issue. The RJD leadership nurses the view that in the changed situation the request for the seat now must come from the top leader of the party, obviously implying from Sonia Gandhi. The Congress with 26 MLAs is likely to draw a bank if RJD does not drop one of its candidates and transfer its support to the party.
The reason for Congress leaders staking their claims has been the oft repeated argument of the RJD leaders that the Congress has no social base of its own and largely depends on the RJD vote-bank for its success. They should consider themselves lucky to whatever seats they are given. The Congress leaders have their point; no doubt the Congress lost it social base in the past. But cannot it aspire to rebuild its base. Already the upper caste of Bihar, especially the Bhumihars and Brahmins have shown their inclination towards the party. Since no serious effort is being made to reach out to them, they are also not showing that amount of keenness.