BJP chief Amit Shah will go to Bihar on 11 July; seat-sharing talks with ally JD(U) on agenda
New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah is headed to Bihar next month amid reports that Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar is getting uncomfortable in the NDA and has reached out to former mahagatbandhan partner Lalu Prasad of the RJD.
Shah will be in the state on 11 July — his first trip to Bihar since the 2015 assembly elections — reportedly to take stock of the situation. He is also scheduled to meet Nitish to settle the seat-sharing row between the partners ahead of the 2019 general election.
“Whatever the issues, the two leaders will sit together and resolve them,” said a senior JD(U) leader. “There is absolutely no problem within the alliance as of now.”
Ahead of the trip, on 28 and 29 June, Shah will conduct a two-day meeting in Delhi with BJP leaders heading shakti kendras (a collection of booths) in Bihar. The agenda is to gauge preparedness for next year’s election and offer guidance.
The reported cracks in the NDA in Bihar follow similar strains in the BJP’s partnership with the Shiv Sena, its oldest ally, and its break-up with the TDP, its on-again-off-again partner, even as the opposition attempts to join forces to oust it from the Centre next year.
There have been several indicators to show that all is not well between the JD(U) and the BJP, the most recent coming on 21 June, when Nitish became the only NDA ally not to participate in the international Yoga Day event.
Over the past few weeks, the Bihar chief minister has renewed his pitch for special status to Bihar and spoken out against Assam’s Citizenship Bill and demonetisation.
Earlier this month, ThePrint reported how Nitish, along with his Bihar allies Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha, is planning to set the terms of seat-sharing with the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
JD(U) sources told ThePrint that the anger against the BJP has been brewing ever since the two parties formed the government in August last year. The primary reason appears to be the BJP’s assertiveness in the coalition. While the JD(U) has 71 seats in the 243-member assembly, the BJP has 53.
Plans for Bihar
As things now stand, the BJP has the biggest share of Bihar’s Lok Sabha tally — 23 of 40 — with ally Lok Janshakti Party having another six. While the Congress and the JD(U) have two each, the RJD has four.
Sources told ThePrint that the party leadership is planning to field 10 to 12 new candidates in 2019. The suggestion was mooted by Bihar’s Nagendraji in May at the Surajkund get-together of BJP organisation in-charges from all states.
The MPs sought to be replaced include frequent Modi government critics Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib), Kirti Azad (Darbhanga), and Bhola Singh (Begusarai). Ministers Ashwini Choubey (Buxar) and R.K. Singh (Arah) were also reportedly on the list.
Shah’s itinerary in Bihar includes a meeting with senior party functionaries for a feedback on the MPs.
The JD(U), too, is working to strengthen its position in the state and in the alliance. Three days before Shah’s visit, the party will hold a national executive in Delhi, where various issues related to seat-sharing and expansion will be taken up for discussion.
At the 7 July meeting, to be attended by party leaders from different states, the JD(U) will discuss the possibilities of its expansion beyond Bihar.
“The agenda of the national executive is to discuss the upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh,” said JD(U) principal secretary K.C. Tyagi, “Our party will contest all three elections and we have a symbolic presence in these states at present.”
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