With the Congress entering into half-baked alliances with the Ramvilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal to contest 80 of the 243 Bihar assembly seats, the stage is set once again for a split in the anti-Lalu votes, a dynamic which has enabled the RJD strongman to remain in power for 15 years.
The Congress will have straight contests with its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, in only 14 seats. These seats are currently with the Congress and the RJD has decided not lay its claim on them.
In the rest of 229 seats, the ruling United Progressive Alliance partners will cross swords with each other as also with the NDA.
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The Congress contested all 243 seats in the 2000 assembly election but won only 12 and finished second in 18. Its candidates lost deposits in 198 constituencies. The party's total vote share was a measly 8.41 per cent.
This time, the Congress is walking tightrope to keep its UPA allies -- the RJD and LJP -- in good humour.
The LJP is contesting 162 seats.
Though the Congress faced a humiliating defeat in the last assembly election in Bihar, its candidates split anti-Lalu votes and were instrumental in the defeat of NDA nominees in 24 constituencies.
Of the 243 candidates put up by the Congress in 2000, 120 secured less than 5000 votes and 24 did not even get into three digits.
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Though this election is the first time that the party has sewn up a formal alliance in Bihar for an assembly election, it had fought the 1998, 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections in accord with the RJD.
In the 1998 Lok Sabha election, the Congress won only five seats and it vote share was 7.72 per cent. In 1999, its vote share slipped to 4.78 per cent and it won only four seats. In 2004 election, the Congress managed to win only three seats with a vote share of 4.8 per cent.
Of the 18 seats which the Congress has announced to contest in the first phase of Bihar elections, barring Kahalgaon, which is represented by Speaker Sadanand Singh, its nominees had forfeited their deposits in 17 in the last election.
The party this time had picked 16 new faces in the list of 18. While Singh has been renominated from Kahalgaon, Abdul Qadir, who had lost from Goh by a margin of little over 10,000 votes, has also been renominated.
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