Suspended BJP leader Kirti Azad likely to join Congress on February 15

Three-time Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad is likely to join the Congress in Delhi on February 15, said a senior party leader on Sunday.

The 60-year-old former cricketer, who was suspended from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2015 for anti-party activities, will also stake his claim to the all-important Darbhanga parliamentary seat. The constituency has traditionally seen a fight between the BJP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Azad will join the party in the presence of senior Congress leaders. However, the Congress leader did not elaborate if the RJD had agreed to part with the seat. The RJD and Congress have decided to fight the Lok Sabha polls together, though the seat-sharing arrangement is yet to be finalised. 

“First, the Congress will identify the seats it feels it has a good chance of winning and then stake claim to them during seat-sharing talks. The Congress wants a minimum of 12 seats,” he added.

With Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha, Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Sadanand Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Singh having met party president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi, there are indications that the seat-sharing talks in the Grand Alliance may get underway within four-five days.

Buoyed by the recent successes in the Hindi heartland and a rally in Patna, the Congress is eyeing a better bargain in Bihar to increase its muscle.

Bihar RJD president Ramchandra Purve had also made it clear that being the largest party with a sizeable strength, the party would not contest fewer than 20-22 seats. If the Congress and RJD stick to their seat demands, the scope for other parties such as the CPI, CPM, CPI-ML, RLSP, Loktantrik Janata Dal, Vikashsheel Inshaan Party will get limited.

“The discussion with Rahul Gandhi revolved round strengthening the organisation in the state. The seat-sharing talks should be underway in the next four-five days. I have also heard about Azad’s joining the Congress,” said Sadanand Singh.

Asked if his candidature from Darbhanga was cleared by the RJD, Azad said he was joining the Congress, not the RJD. “That makes many things clear and whatever is not clear today will become clear on February 15. There are no ifs and buts about it,” he added.

Son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad, Kirti Azad has been asserting that he would fight the Darbhanga seat, come what may. He had also expressed his preference for the Congress because it is as a national party.

Azad had defeated RJD’s four-time MP Md Ali Ashraf Fatmi in 2014 by nearly 34,000 votes, while JD-U’s Sanjay Kumar Jha was a distant third with 1.04-lakh votes. This time, Jha is positioning himself as the NDA candidate on the JD-U ticket.

Since 1999, Fatmi has been the main contender for Azad. Fatmi had won in 2004 against Azad. If Azad becomes the GA candidate with the backing of the RJD, it could add to his strength.

First Published: Feb 11, 2019 10:49 IST

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