Congress President Rahul Gandhi waves at his supporters during an event to address 'fishermen's parliament', at Triprayar in Thrissur. Image Credit: PTI

Patna: The opposition Grand Alliance (GA) is now ready to take on the Bhartiya Janatya Party (BJP)-led ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar with the allies close to reaching a seat-sharing deal after weeks of intense negotiations and hard bargaining. However, the announcement of the deal is being delayed as part of the strategy, sources claimed.

As per the understanding reached among the allies, the main opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will be contesting in 20 out of Bihar’s total 40 Lok Sabha seats, whereas the Congress will contest 11 seats. The RJD which is headed by mighty politician Lalu Prasad, now serving a prison sentence in Ranchi jail in fodder scam cases, enjoys a huge support base among sections of backward, Dalit and Muslim community and has always supported the secular alliance.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the RJD had contested in 27 LS seats, sparing the remaining 12 seats for the Congress and one seat for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But this time, the RJD had to leave seven seats to accommodate several new allies which have joined the GA.

Of them, three new allies, such as Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) headed by former federal minister Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) led by former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) led by former federal minister Shard Yadav were till recently part of the NDA. While Manjhi joined the GA in March last year, Kushwaha became part of it in December only.

Informed sources said the GA leaders are also working hard to accommodate the Left parties which enjoy considerable support base in certain pockets of Bihar. Especially, the GA leaders are eager to accommodate Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) led by Dipankar Bhattacharya and Communist Party of India which have good presence and could prove decisive in the elections.

“We have finalised the deal but are delaying it as part of our strategy. At first we want the NDA to release its name of candidates,”

Congress’ Bihar in-charge Shatisinh Gohil told the media on Thursday. “Why we all would have been here (in Delhi) if we had not reached at the deal?” asked Gohil, adding the GA was working under a well-drafted strategy to defeat the NDA candidates.

Bihar opposition leader and RJD lawmaker Tejashwi Yadav said GA is the union of “many hearts, and not the parties” and added the masses would not forgive them if they went alone in the elections. As per the report, the deal would be announced possibly by March 17.

In the last 2014 LS polls, the NDA had put up a spectacular show, emerging victorious on 31 out of total 40 LS seats. Of the 31 seats, the BJP alone had won 22 seats but the entire scene has undergone a complete change this time and this will not be easy for the NDA to repeat the past performance in the changed political situation. One of the major reasons why the NDA had emerged the winner last time was the split in secular votes as two prominent parties, the RJD led by Prasad and the Janata Dal United (JD-U led by chief minister Nitish Kumar, had fought separately.

But this time the situation is not so smooth for the NDA. Apart from the anti-incumbency factor gripping the NDA, the major opposition parties too have come together, minimising chances of a split in secular votes. So the contest indeed is going to be tougher for the ruling NDA this time.