Congress President Sonia Gandhi (PTI)
Decimated in the Lok Sabha polls, the opposition Grand Alliance in Bihar appeared heading for fresh trouble on Wednesday with its constituents making competing claims on assembly segments where by-polls are scheduled next month.
By-elections are taking place for Samastipur Lok Sabha seat necessitated by the death of the sitting LJP MP besides Daraunda, Nathnagar, Simari Bakhtiarpur, Kishanganj and Belhar assembly segments as the incumbent JD(U) MLAs and a Congress MLA have got elected to the Parliament.
According to the latest reports, the Congress party has decided to field candidates in all five seats.
Lalu Prasads RJD, which heads the five-party coalition, is on Tuesday understood to have given party tickets to its candidates for Nathnagar, Simari Bakhtiarpur and Belhar besides telling its cadres that the nominee for Daraunda will be announced soon.
RJD sources defended the party’s decision with regard to the four seats saying these were its “traditional strongholds” and pointing out that it has not staked claim over Kishanganj since it was a sitting seat of the Congress.
Angered over the development, Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi rushed to Bhagalpur and announced candidature of his partys Ajay Rai for Nathnagar in the district.
Manjhi sought to know whether the RJD “wants to remain in the Grand Alliance or walk out”.
Accusing the RJD of “helping the BJP in the name of fighting it”, Manjhi made it clear that his party candidate will file his nomination papers on September 30, the last date for doing so.
Notably, Manjhi a former Chief Minister, who has been upset with the RJD for not giving his party a “respectable” number of seats in Lok Sabha polls had last week announced that his party would contest Nathnagar “come what may”.
In Patna, former Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahni who heads the fledgling Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) told reporters “we will enter the fray from Simri Bakhtiyarpur. The candidate will be announced soon and filing of nominations will take place on September 28.
“We will also support Manjhis candidate in Nathnagar. We will support Grand Alliance candidates in all other seats where by-polls are scheduled”.
Interestingly, the Congress which is also one of the grand alliance constituents is yet to reveal its cards though a meeting held at the state headquarters here for planning Mahatma Gandhis 150th birth anniversary celebrations ended in a clamour for “going it alone” in the five assembly and one Lok Sabha seats.
Meanwhile, RJD national spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha urged alliance partners to hold their horses.
“We are experiencing a period of political adversity. I would urge allies not to make haste and take any decision that may not be in sync with the ground realities”, Jha told reporters.
The NDA, which comprises BJP, Chief Minister Nitish Kumars JD(U) and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswans LJP, is yet to announce its candidates.
There have been unconfirmed reports, though, that in Samastipur deceased LJP MP Ram Chandra Paswans son Prince is set to make his electoral debut.
Among the assembly segments, the JD(U) is expected to contest all four of its sitting seats leaving Kishanganj for the BJP, which had finished runner-up in 2015.
The NDA had achieved spectacular success in the general elections, winning 39 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats and wresting from the RJD two assembly segments where by-polls were necessitated by disqualification of sitting MLAs upon conviction in criminal cases.