New Delhi: The battle lines may have been drawn in Bihar, but seat sharing in the rival alliances led by BJP and JD(U) for the upcoming crucial assembly election is likely to be quite a challenge with the constituents all set to strike a hard bargain.
Minor parties in the alliances have already started hinting at it and made it known that out of the box thinking is needed over the issue for the prestigious battle that has the potential to change the national scene dominated by Narendra Modi-led BJP for the past more than one year.
The talk in the Nitish Kumar-led alliance is that RJD chief Lalu Prasad is taking his own time to decide on seat sharing for the 243-member Assembly whatever may be the public posturing. RJD and JD(U) have to first firm up the seat allocation among themselves and later the share of minor players will be decided.
Ally Congress' General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed said, "Congress would like honourable number of seats so that its cadres do not get demoralized." Ahmed is a former Bihar PCC Chief and had been a state Minister for long.
Congress leaders say in private that Rahul Gandhi could go in for a tough bargain to avoid any raw deal to the party.
Sharad Pawar's NCP also held its national convention in Patna last month to pitch for a secular alliance comprising the JD-U, RJD, Congress and NCP.
BJP too is facing a challenging task.Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, whose Rashtriya Lok Samata Party is part of the BJP-led NDA, has already suggested that the seat sharing formula during the Lok Sabha polls does not hold good for the coming Assembly polls. Kushwaha had been an ally of Nitish Kumar till a few years back.
He has even suggested that BJP should contest on 102 seats it fought in alliance with JD(U) in the last assembly polls and that all partners spare seats proportionately for new allies.
RLSP wants to contest 67 seats in the election, likely to be held in September-October this year.
While Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP has been toeing a pro-BJP line on the way ahead in Bihar, seat-sharing remains a ticklish issue with former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi joining the alliance and Pappu Yadav too parting ways with Lalu Prasad.
The smaller parties are sending home the message that if the dominant partners-BJP on one side and RJD and JD-U on the other failed to take everyone on board, they would be the ultimate loser.
A senior Congress leader, who is part of a group of central leaders looking after Bihar, said that they were not just looking at numbers but wanted seats where the party had a good chance of winning.
Citing an instance, the leader, who declined to be identified, said that in the Telangana Assembly polls last year, Congress alliance with the AIMIM was not beneficial for the party as the Asaduddin Owaisi led party did not part with a single strong seat.
The political scene in the state has turned topsy turvy since the last Assembly polls in 2010 with friends turning foes and vice versa.
While Nitish Kumar has been nominated as the CM candidate of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance, no Chief Ministerial candidate is being projected by the BJP.
But the issue of CM candidate is already causing some trouble for the BJP-led alliance. Its leader Sushil Modi had remained Deputy Chief Minister under Nitish Kumar for several years till the two parties parted ways.
Former state BJP chief C P Thakur has openly said that if the party wants he was ready to be the CM candidate. A section of the party feels that a Yadav as CM candidate should be projected to make inroads into Lalu Prasad's votebank.
The Rashtriya Lok Samta Party has passed a resolution announcing that Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha should be the face of the NDA campaign for the Bihar elections.
Stakes are high for the Prime Minister as the battle in Bihar for BJP comes after the crushing defeat in Delhi at the hands of Arvind Kejriwal.
For Nitish Kumar, the coming elections are an occasion to avenge the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls where BJP stole the show on the back of tieups with the parties of Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha.