Cong avoids queries on seat sharing in Bihar

Patna, Dec 21: The Congress on Friday avoided questions on how many seats it wished to contest in Bihar in the 2019 general elections, in the wake of the party's fine performance in the recently held state assembly polls.

AICC in-charge for the state Shaktisinh Gohil, however, said the party was making "ground-level preparations in all 40 Lok Sabha seats" in the state so that "besides winning those we contest ourselves, we help our allies in achieving victory in their respective parliamentary constituencies".

Gohil arrived here on his maiden visit of the state after the Congress-led UPA received a shot in the arm with the entry of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha, who quit the NDA and resigned from the Union Council of Ministers last week.

Gohil was present at a press meet in the national capital on Thursday with his party colleague Ahmad Patel, RJD Tejashwi Yadav, RLSP Upendra Kushwaha and HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi.

He was asked about speculations that following its success in the assembly polls, the Congress could claim for itself the role of a "big brother" in the grand alliance, also known as 'mahagathbandhan'.

The grand alliance at present comprises the Congress, Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD, the RLSP, the Hindustani Awam Morcha headed and founded by former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

"We are making preparations in all the 40 Lok Sabha seats. As regards to seat-sharing, an appropriate decision will be taken at an appropriate time. Our concern is not limited to increasing our own tally. We not only want to win our seats, but also want our allies to win in their respective seats. And the coalition is getting bigger, as you can see", Gohil told reporters here.

The Congress leader, who is also an AICC national spokesman, came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, alleging purchase of the Rafale fighter aircraft at prices much higher than what was agreed on in 2012, by the then UPA government, had caused the exchequer a staggering loss of more than Rs 40,000 crore.

He also criticised the government for handing over the offset contract, worth Rs 30,000 crore to the Reliance Defence Ltd in place of the HAL, thereby "sacrificing the interests of a public sector undertaking in favour of a private company".

"In 2015, the Modi government went on to purchase 36 fighter aircraft, defence procurement procedure, defence exhibition council and cabinet committee on security were thrown to the wind", alleged Gohil, who like the prime minister hails from Gujarat.

Reiterating the party's charge that the government "misled the Supreme Court" on the issue, Gohil said, "The Congress has always held that the Apex court did not have the jurisdiction to investigate a scam of this nature. A reason why we have been pressing for a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee which the Modi government is wary of setting up".

Training his guns at the Nitish Kumar government in the state, Gohil claimed the killing of a city-based businessman, Gunjan Khemka, in a crowded area of Vaishali district in broad daylight the previous day signalled the collapse of law and order in Bihar.

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