Seat sharing talks in Grand Alliance seems to take a setback as Tej Pratap’s divorce grab attention of opposition

The divorce plan of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s elder son and former Bihar minister Tej Pratap Yadav is not only giving anxious moments to the party’s first family but has also cast its shadow on seat sharing talks for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls among partners of Grand Alliance (GA).

Some GA leaders, requesting anonymity, said there had been no talk on seat sharing among partners of the alliance, comprising RJD, Congress and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), since Tej Pratap filed for divorce on November 2.

They said the RJD top leadership, including Tej Pratap’s brother and leader of opposition in Bihar legislative assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, has been busy trying to handle the crisis in the party’s first family owing to the former minister’s adamant stand to seek divorce from his wife of six months, Aishwarya Rai, and staying away from Patna.

As a result, a coordination committee of GA partners and Left parties, that was supposed to be formed in the first week of November to formalise seat sharing, had been delayed, they said.

“There has been no seat sharing talk in the last one week. The divorce episode has pushed politics into backseat in the GA,” said a senior GA leader, not wishing to be quoted.

Though the exercise of seat identification had started a few months back, it did not make much headway for various factors, including the Samvidhaan Bachao Nyay Yatra of Tejashwi which continued for a fortnight in mid-October, he said. “All GA partners should have held meetings in last few months. But it has not happened and there is not much time left for the Lok Sabha polls,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tejashwi’s meeting with his incarcerated father at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi on Saturday is being seen as politically significant. There are speculations that Tejashwi had called on his ailing father not only to enquire about his health but also to discuss the seat sharing arrangement among GA partners. Many leaders, including Loktantrrik Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav, have called on Lalu in last few weeks apparently to speed up the seat adjustment talks.

The RJD chief, who has been convicted in three fodder scam cases since December 23 last year, surrendered before a court in Ranchi on September 1. Later, Birsa Munda Central Jail authorities shifted him to RIMS.
“The crisis within Lalu’s family over Tej Pratap’s divorce plan should blow over soon as it may affect the seat sharing talks with GA partners,” said a RJD leader on the condition of anonymity.

RJD’s spokesperson and MLA Bhai Birendra, however, said there was no hitch on seat sharing as all GA partners were unanimous that defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was the ultimate aim of the secular coalition.

“Seat adjustment in GA is almost final and an announcement will be made in December last week or January first week. There is no problem at all,” Birendra said, adding that he was hopeful that the GA would add more allies in coming days. He said differences in the NDA was growing, with Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) led by Union minister Upendra Kushwaha and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan not accepting the seat sharing formula between the BJP and Janata Dal (United).

Birendra said seats would be allocated to each partner in the GA on the basis of vote base of political parties.
“Has the NDA finalised its seat adjustment? It has not happened. But in GA, the seat adjustment will be done in a smooth manner and we will have a total alliance,” said senior RJD leader Jagdanand Singh.

The state Congress leaders, however, maintained there had been no formal talks on seat adjustments among GA partners and the process would start only after the results of elections in five states are announced.
They said Congress in-charge for Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil was busy campaigning in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. He could talk with RJD leaders on seat sharing during his visit to Bhagalpur in November last week.

“Seat sharing arrangement would be worked out after the results of assembly elections in five states are declared. We are also hopeful that the GA would grow bigger in coming days as more parties will join it,” said Congress state spokesperson and MLC Prem Chand Mishra.