Vastavam web: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and new entrant to the “Mahagathbandhan” (Grand Alliance) Mukesh Sahni met Lalu Prasad in a Ranchi jail Saturday as part of the process for seat-sharing in the opposition coalition in Bihar for the 2019 general election. Prasad is lodged at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi on medical grounds, after his conviction in the multi-crore-rupee fodder scam cases. Sources close to the jailed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo said preliminary talks were held between Prasad and the three leaders regarding seat-sharing in the anti-NDA grouping. The ruling Janata Dal (United), led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, poked fun at the leaders going to the Hotwar jail in Ranchi to “prostrate” before the imprisoned RJD supremo for finalisation of the seat-sharing.
At present, the Grand Alliance in Bihar comprises the Congress, the RJD, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Sahni’s fledgling outfit, the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD). After the meeting with Prasad, Kushwaha, accompanied by Sahni, told reporters in Ranchi that the talks were primarily about the RJD supremo’s health.
“There were some political discussions also, the details of which we need not make public. But, of course, we discussed the strategy to defeat the BJP-led NDA in both Bihar and Jharkhand,” he added. To a pointed query on seat-sharing among the Grand Alliance constituents, the RLSP chief said it would be discussed at a later stage. Asked whether he hoped for a bigger share in the Grand Alliance compared to when the RLSP was in the NDA, which had offered him only two of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, Kushwaha, who also reportedly wants the Chatra seat in Jharkhand for his confidant Nagmani, said, “Wait for the opportune time, you will get to know.”
Prasad’s younger son and RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav also met the party supremo after Kushwaha and told reporters that there was no hurry to announce a seat-sharing formula. “Our priority is to make the NDA bite the dust and not to make the number of seats a prestige issue,” he said. “We think the Congress should get at least 12 (seats), but we will also have to take into account that we have to accommodate many constituents,” he said.
January 14 is the date on which “Kharmas”, a month considered inauspicious, ends. Prasad had reportedly sought the deferment of a decision on seat-sharing until that date, Jha said. Meanwhile, the JD(U) launched a stinging attack on Prasad and former Union minister Kushwaha over the meeting of the two leaders in Ranchi. JD(U) MLC and spokesperson Neeraj Kumar issued a statement referring to Prasad as the “prisoner no. 3351” of the Hotwar jail and accused Kushwaha, whom he did not refer by name, of going to the Jharkhand capital to perform a “dandwat” (prostration) before the imprisoned RJD supremo.