For the moment the Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janata Party alliance in Bihar is over. The Congress will contest atleast 14 seats and this number can go up depending on whether Pappu Yadav casts his lot with the Congress.
With Laloo Yadav announcing that the RJD will contest 25 seats and The LJP will contest 12 seats, the Congress has now decided it will contest the three seats where it has its sitting MPs and the 11 seats where the National Democratic Alliance has its sitting MPs.
A senior leader involved in the negotiation said that since RJD-LJP have shown them the 'courtesy' of leaving three seats for the Congress, it would return the 'courtesy' by leaving the 22 seats where the RJD has sitting MPs and 4 where the LJP won the last time. Sources add that that state of this 'courtesy' can change in the days ahead.
Sources in the Congress state that the Laloo-Paswan combine felt that the creation of the Third Front would put pressure on Sonia Gandhi to give in and accept the three seats but the Congress president is said to be clear that the situation as dictated by Laloo was unacceptable.
In the negotiations the Congress had been asking for a minimum of 9 seats plus two more seats for Pappu Yadav taking the total to 11 and the party was unwilling to compromise on this.
Laloo Yadav's brother-in-law and the seniormost dalit leader in the RJD, Ramiah Ram and Captain Jai Narain Nishad were in touch with the Congress and met Sushil Kumar Shinde who has been negotiating the seat sharing with the RJD and the LJP.
Apart from that Pappu Yadav met All India Congress Committee member Iqbal Singh on Monday to discuss the situation. Pappu Yadav is said to have asked for7 seats and sources say that the situation vis-a-vis Pappu Yadav is still fluid.
The Congress leaders aver that what has happened in Bihar should not come as a surprise for anyone with Rahul Gandhi having clearly taken the line, backed by Sonia Gandhi, that the party would not pander to the allies and would not shortchange itself. Bihar is only following the direction set by the party leadership in UP. The thinking is that all
options are open in the post-poll scenario.