Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad may have come tantalisingly close to reviving the ‘grand secular pre-poll alliance’ ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, but he has to cede much ground to his prospective alliance partners now in Bihar.
Gone is the contempt with which he treated others during 2009 elections. Instead, trusting his instinct that a possible pre-poll alliance of RJD, Congress, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will give both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar a tough fight in the state, Lalu is now in his sweetest best.
Out of power for the past nine years in the state and five years at the Centre, Lalu is said to be ready to offer about half of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar to the Congress, LJP and NCP in the seat-sharing arrangement, at the cost of antagonising his own party leaders.
Lalu, on his part is pulling out all stops to get the alliance in shape. RJD sources said that Lalu had offered 10 seats to the Congress to lure it back to the same alliance that had romped home in as many as 29 Lok Sabha constituencies in the 2004 general elections. Ironically, Lalu had rejected the Congress’s demand for only four seats in the run-up to the 2009 polls forcing AICC chief Sonia Gandhi to go it alone in the elections.
But Lalu’s fate appears to have made him a mellowed man and he seems ready to go to any extent to firm up the secular alliance now. He is also said to be ready to offer eight seats to LJP and one seat to the NCP, to prevent disintegration of secular votes.
This is despite the fact that a section of his party leaders believed that the RJD, which had fielded 28 candidates last time, should not leave more than 12 seats for its allies. Many of them felt that the party should not sacrifice those seats where it has formidable public support. RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui was apprehensive that the prestigious Madhubani seat, from where he had lost the last Lok Sabha election by a slender margin, might be given to the Congress since it was the home constituency of former Union minister Shakeel Ahmad. “I will be hurt if the seat is given,” Siddiqui said.
Lalu apparently believes that the RJD, LJP and the Congress can turn the tables on the Narendra Modi-led BJP and the JD(U) only if these parties fight the polls together. That is why he is ready to sacrifice many of his party’s traditional seats unlike the days of yore when he treated his alliance partners with utmost contempt.