New Delhi: Just months ahead of the 2019 general election, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) joined hands with Bihar’s Mahagatbandhan or “grand alliance" on Thursday ,with its leader Upendra Kushwaha saying he felt “humiliated" in the earlier alliance.

While Kushwaha coming on-board marks the opposition alliance’s attempts to consolidate the crucial Koeri community vote in Bihar, where it accounts for roughly 8% population, the growing list of political parties presents its own challenge: that of ensuring a smooth seat-sharing plan in the run-up to the polls due early next year. “This is an alliance which has come together on an ideological basis. So we have been saying since the beginning that here we will not have any problem in seat-sharing or going ahead to work together," senior Congress leader and Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil said at a joint press conference with top opposition leaders of the state, including former Bihar deputy chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Counting the RLSP, the key political parties who are now part of the opposition alliance in Bihar include the RJD, Congress, the former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), the Sharad Yadav-led Loktantrik Janata Dal and the two Left parties. There are 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

“While Kushwaha brings the Koeri support base to the Mahagatbandhan, the alliance list has become long and we are expecting some more leaders to join. The challenge is everyone needs to be accommodated without ruffling too many feathers," a senior opposition leader said requesting anonymity.

In 2014, the RJD contested 27 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress 12 and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) one. “The bigger problem will, however, be when we sit down to decide who contests which seat. Everyone has some bastions and there will be overlaps. We are hopeful of smooth sailing but it will come with its own trade-off," another leader said.

Kushwaha quit the NDA last week. When asked on Thursday whether he would get the expected number of seats in the opposition alliance as this was his alleged ground of leaving the NDA, Kushwaha said: “Our party was being weakened through a well-thought-out conspiracy. The conspiracy was if they weaken us we will not raise questions related to people and social justice."

The return of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to the NDA’s fold is seen as the beginning of Kushwaha’s problem. Senior opposition leaders feel it is with Kumar’s exit that Kushwaha’s possibility of joining the opposition ranks emerged.

“The Mahagatbandhan is hedging its bets on Kushwaha on how much he can dent Kumar’s support base. In that sense, his party’s contribution in some pockets of the state will be crucial and it will be interesting to see how much the RLSP can consolidate," a Congress leader said.

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