Patna: Ending all speculation, the BJP and Janata Dal (United) Tuesday finally sealed a seat-sharing deal for the upcoming elections, snubbing Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), whose chief Chirag Paswan had mounted a rebellion against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
At a joint press conference in the evening, the BJP fully backed Nitish, with Deputy CM Sushil Modi saying: “We have accepted Nitish Kumar as the leader of NDA and the CM face. Those who do not accept it have no place in NDA.”
The press meet, however, was preceded by drama as JD(U) leaders wanted BJP to first disown the LJP to clear confusion among voters.
Paswan Monday appealed to voters in Bihar not to cast a single vote for the JD(U) and also insisted the next government in the state will be a BJP-LJP government.
However, the press meet, which was held at 5 pm after being postponed twice, clearly sent a message to Paswan and, more importantly, to NDA voters in Bihar.
“There is no confusion… Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan (Chirag’s father) is an old associate and we wish him a speedy recovery (as he underwent a heart surgery). Had he been well, we would not have faced this situation,” said deputy CM Modi.
“There are no ifs and buts. Nitish Kumar will be the CM,” he asserted.
Nitish, during his address, first tried to ignore the LJP. But later, without taking LJP’s name, said: “I do not care what other people say. Some people have the habit of making baseless statements no matter how much you do.”
He said that Ram Vilas Paswan was an old associate. “But how can you say that JD(U) has not helped Paswan ji? The JD(U) voted for him in the Rajya Sabha,” he said.
The drama before the press meet got another twist when reports started trickling in about Rajendra Singh, former BJP organisation secretary of the Jharkhand unit, joining the LJP.
Senior JD(U) minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav was learnt to have chided party leaders R.C.P. Sinha and Lallan Singh at the CM’s official residence where the seat-sharing talks took place, and accused them of working for the BJP, said sources in the JD(U). Both Sinha and Singh were part of the seat-sharing discussions with the BJP.
“Don’t you know what is happening? Everybody knows it,” a JD(U) leader quoted the minister as saying before the seat-sharing talks began.
JD(U) leaders were also miffed at the LJP planning to publish election posters with photos of PM Modi and Chirag.
JD(U) sources said at this point Nitish intervened and it was then decided that the BJP should first disown the LJP.
When BJP leaders Devendra Fadnavis, the poll in-charge, and party general secretary Bhupender Yadav arrived at the CM’s official residence, they were told by JD(U) leaders to disown the LJP as it was creating confusion among the masses, sources added.
Following this, at 4 pm, Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal held a sudden press meet, declaring that those who do not accept the leadership of Nitish Kumar have no place in the NDA.
Talking to ThePrint, Jaiswal reiterated: “Nitish ji is our leader. There is no confusion, our alliance is solid.”
A state BJP leader said there is “resentment” in the party over the LJP’s stance.
“Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda announced Nitish Kumar’s name last year as the chief ministerial candidate. Even PM Modi in several video conferences lauded Kumar’s governance. This type of politics to create confusion is not acceptable,” he added.
JD(U) general secretary K.C. Tyagi said Chirag Paswan’s decision will cost him dearly in the coming days. “This shows his political immaturity, maybe he is aspiring too much in a short time.”
Asked if it’s BJP’s attempt to weaken Nitish, Tyagi said BJP-JD(U) alliance is solid and LJP was never a part of an alliance with JD(U). “There’s no such plot, it’s only Chirag’s high aspiration, nothing else,” he added.
Who is Rajendra Singh?
Singh was not well-known among BJP circles in Bihar, but his joining the LJP in Delhi infuriated the JD(U).
Until 2015, Singh was the BJP’s organisation secretary in Jharkhand. The posts of the organisation secretary are considered very powerful as they are directly recruited by the RSS.
In the 2015 assembly election, Singh contested from Dinara assembly seat located in Bihar’s Bhojpur district. It was then speculated that he will be the CM face if BJP comes to power. But he lost to Jai Kumar Singh, now a JD(U) minister and who has been re-nominated to contest from the same seat.
In the 2015 polls, several BJP leaders from both Jharkhand and Bihar, including then CM of Jharkhand Raghubar Das, had campaigned for Singh.
The LJP has now fielded Singh from Dinara.
The LJP also released photos of Singh joining the party and in a statement also described it as a big victory for LJP-BJP and defeat for the JD(U).
Notwithstanding JD(U) leaders criticising LJP’s plan to publish election posters with PM Modi’s photo, the party said Modi is not the PM of any political party but the entire country.
“PM Modi is our role model for development and we will go to the people with the role model,” it said in a statement.
At the press conference, deputy CM Sushil Modi tried to pacify the JD(U) on this issue.
“If it is needed, we will write to the EC asking it to impose a ban on non-NDA parties from using PM Modi’s photo in election posters,” he said.
During the press conference, it was announced that JD(U) will contest on 122 seats and BJP on 121 out of the 243 assembly constituencies.
The JD(U) will allot 7 seats to Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha, while the BJP will concede some seats to Mukesh Sahni-led Vikassheel Insaan Party, a new entrant to the NDA fold after it walked out of the RJD-Congress grand alliance.
While the JD(U) has released the first list of candidates’ names Monday, the BJP hasn’t come out with any list so far.