New Delhi: The seat-sharing exercise within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, which promised to be fraught with twists and turns, is beginning to live up to its billing.
After a meeting with BJP president J.P. Nadda Tuesday night, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Chirag Paswan has come out backing the BJP to contest in more seats in the upcoming assembly elections, as opposed to the JD(U).
Although the BJP high command has repeatedly backed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the party’s state unit has been pushing for a harder bargain with the JD(U).
Sources in the LJP said that in the meeting, Chirag told Nadda that he would like the BJP to fight on more seats as compared to the JD(U). The meeting between the two took place at around 11 pm in New Delhi and revolved around the political situation in the state.
“It was a positive meeting between the two,” a senior LJP functionary said. “Paswan stressed on the fact that BJP should fight on more seats as they had sacrificed at least five seats during the Lok Sabha elections.”
Following the meeting with Nadda, Chirag held another round of meetings with LJP MPs and former MPs Wednesday to discuss the issue.
Relations between the LJP and the JD(U) have been strained over the past few months, with Chirag making no secret of his chief ministerial ambitions and even threatening to go it alone in the assembly elections.
The differences between the LJP and the JD(U) stem from Chirag’s demand for a greater say in the government and 40 seats for his party in the upcoming elections.
Sources said that Nitish is not amenable to the idea as the LJP had contested 42 seats in the 2015 polls and won in a mere two.
Chirag may have BJP backing: Expert
Some political observers believe that Paswan’s constant attacks on CM Nitish Kumar has the backing of the BJP that has been seeking to increase its share in the alliance.
“It is true that in Bihar every political party is trying to prove its own existence. Nitish Kumar has been there for the last 15 years through one coalition or the other. The BJP and JD(U) decided to part ways earlier and then realised that they can only work wonders together and hence came together again,” said D.M. Diwakar, a political analyst from Bihar.
“Nitish Kumar always keeps his options open for any party. His ambition is to be in power somehow and hence BJP doesn’t want to give any scope to Nitish to move away,” he added.
“At the same time, the BJP also doesn’t want Nitish to have such power which is absolute. The fact that Chirag Paswan is claiming that leadership should be changed clearly means he has the backing of the BJP,” Diwakar said.
“He wouldn’t be able to say this without the backing of the BJP. That also became quite clear when J.P. Nadda came to Bihar and Chirag Paswan said that he is always with the BJP and believes in the leadership of the BJP.”
While the BJP has been backing Nitish to avoid any possibilities of another mahagathbandhan like that of 2015, when the JD(U) allied with the RJD and the Congress, the party also believes that it is on a stronger footing in Bihar than its ally.
This confidence stems from the fact that in a recent assessment ahead of the elections, the party found that Bihar voters feel weary of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar due to his 15-year-long stint, and, in contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is still intact.
This assessment was made by BJP leaders who were sent to various districts between 25 and 28 August to sense the mood of the people before finalising candidates ahead of the assembly polls.
In a meeting held on 29 August with Nadda, BJP MPs from Bihar had also urged the central leadership to push for an equal share with the JD(U).
Of the 243 seats in the Bihar assembly, the JD(U) had won 71 in the 2015 assembly polls, the BJP in 53 and the LJP bagged two seats.
In last year’s Lok Sabha elections, of the 40 seats in Bihar, the BJP and the JD(U) fought in 17 seats each, while the LJP contested in the remaining six.
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