Assembly elections in Bihar will be held in October-November later this year. While Nitish Kumar will seek to retain power for the fourth consecutive term, the RJD is desperate to return to power and has been struggling to project Tejashwi Yadav as a winning alternative to Kumar.

The RJD has already declared Tejashwi Yadav as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls. But it seems Tejashwi’s candidature is not acceptable to the allies of the Mahagathbandhan.

However, trouble appears to be brewing in the Mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, in Bihar over its chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections later this year after former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, now Bihar Congress in-charge Shakti Singh Gohil has made it clear that Tejashwi Yadav has not yet been declared the CM candidate of the Mahagathbandhan.

While speaking to the media, Gohil said, “Tejashwi Yadav has not been declared the CM candidate of Mahagathbandhan. First, the coordination committee of the alliance partners has to be formed, which will unanimously declare the name of the CM candidate. This has yet to happen.”

The Congress has suggested a state-wide survey to identify the face of the alliance after some of its leaders voiced their opposition to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav’s name.

At a virtual meeting between former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Congress leaders, veteran Nikhil Kumar and legislative party leader Sadanand Singh expressed strong opposition to the move to project Tejashwi as the CM face. In the meeting, both Nikhil Kumar and Sadanand Singh argued that the move will further alienate upper castes who “despise RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi for their strong bias against forward castes”. Moreover, the Congress rejected suggestions to go it alone in the assembly elections with the leadership insisting that there is no time left for such a move.

The Congress party’s Bihar in-charge, Shaktisinh Gohil, then suggested that a state-wide survey should be conducted, and insisted that the grand alliance should go by the popular choice, the leader said.

The issue has earlier been flagged by three constituents of the grouping — Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi,

Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) president Mukesh Sahani. They have repeatedly been speaking publicly against the move to project Tejashwi as the CM face, saying the RJD took the decision unilaterally.

Earlier, former Bihar CM and Hindustani Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi had demanded the formation of a coordination committee of alliance partners like Congress, HAM, RLSP, VIP party, and Left parties. But the demand was turned down by the RJD, which is the principal Opposition party in the Bihar Assembly to the Nitish Kumar government.

With Shakti Singh Gohil not accepting Tejashwi as CM candidate, Congress party is mounting pressure on the RJD for a larger share in the seat-sharing bargain out of the 243 assembly constituency. Last time RJD and JDU had contested 101 seats each and the Congress – 41 seats. In 2020 Assembly polls, the Congress wants to contest more than 60 seats.

The fissures in the Mahagathbandhan led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar is getting wider as elections draw closer. While there have been questions about Tejashwi Yadav’s

credibility as the face of the united opposition to take on the ruling BJP-JDU combine led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the fight over the chief ministerial candidate ahead of the upcoming assembly elections is getting bitter now.

Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi has charged

The RJD with trying to impose its will on coalition partners. Speaking to reporters in Patna on Tuesday, Manjhi said that he has no problem with jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s

son Tejashwi Yadav being projected as the face of the alliance, but sought to remind that the party was not capable of taking on the ruling Nitish Kumar-led coalition in the state in the absence of Lalu. Lalu is currently serving a jail term in Ranchi after his conviction in separate fodder scam cases.

Manjhi further called for a consensus among the grand alliance constituents on the face of the alliance and pitched for senior Congress leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s candidature as the face of the alliance. Meira Kumar is a Dalit and hails from Sasaram town in the state.

“I have no problems with Tejashwi. Some Congress leaders have spoken in favour of

 making former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar the face. I have no problems with that either. My point is, the decision must be taken after a consensus among all coalition partners,” he said. Manjhi has been aligned with the RJD-led alliance since March 2018 when he walked out of the BJP-led NDA.

“There was also a proposal to make the alliance broader by including the Left parties in it. Some leaders suggested that Congress, RJD and Left parties should come together and keep the other three parties – RLSP, HAM, and VIP – out given that there is a big question mark on their ability to transfer votes to other constituents as seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” another leader said.