After weeks of wrangling and war of words, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad finally on Sunday announced that their parties would contest the Assembly elections later in the state as an alliance.
Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United and RJD will now discuss the number of seats their respective parties would contest. Bihar Assembly has 243 seats.
The announcement was made shortly after a Janata Parivar meeting concluded at SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence on Sunday evening.
While speaking to the press, Ram Gopal Yadav said, “(We) will fight elections in Bihar as an alliance.”
“Three members each from RJD and JDU will be part of a six-member committee who will prepare report on seat distribution,” he added.
“It has been decided that election will be contested on the basis of merger,” said Yadav.
Asked about the contentious issue of chief ministership, the SP general secretary said,”There is no dispute. These things will be taken care of later.”
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav was also present in the meeting. The meeting, first between Lalu and Nitish in many weeks, apparently failed to resolve the differences between the two leaders on the issue of chief ministership.
While JD(U) has been insisting on Nitish to be declared as the chief ministerial candidate, Lalu has maintained that the issue can be addressed later.
The RJD leader had his way as the matter has been kept pending. The meeting came after Sharad Yadav’s assertion on Thursday that RJD, JD(U) and Congress will contest the elections together.
In an interesting development, the meeting between Lalu and Nitish was preceded by a visit by the latter to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s residence. The Bihar chief minister’s meeting with Rahul lasted over an hour amid talks of a broader “secular alliance” to take on BJP.
The discussion with Rahul, which took place ahead of a meeting between the leaders of RJD and JD(U), is being seen as an attempt to show that Nitish is the preferred choice of the Congress.
Amid the face-off between RJD and JD(U) leaders over the chief ministerial candidate, Congress had made it clear that while it is keen on the proposed grand alliance that includes both Lalu and Nitish, it will side with the latter in case the two fail to come together.
Assembly elections in Bihar, where BJP is set for a battle against a united Janata Parivar, are likely to be held sometime in September-October, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had said.
On April 15, six political parties — including Janata Dal United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party — had announced a merger to revive the united Janata Party. Mulayam Singh Yadav was named the president of the merged entity.