With less than a year left for the next Lok Sabha polls, the NDA in Bihar, home to 40 Lok Sabha MPs, faces a daunting task of resolving the thorny issue of seat sharing among its four allies.
With less than a year left for the next Lok Sabha polls, the NDA in Bihar, home to 40 Lok Sabha MPs, faces a daunting task of resolving the thorny issue of seat sharing among its four allies. After aggressive posturing by various NDA partners over the past fortnight, all eyes are now set on BJP president Amit Shah’s visit here in July second week when an attempt is likely to be made to work out a seat-sharing formula, acceptable to all. Though Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, also a member of the BJP national executive, said the full itinerary of the party chief was not yet known, party sources, on condition of anonymity, said Shah would be here on July 12 when he is likely to meet the leaders of other NDA constituents as well.
The seat-sharing issue in NDA has become ticklish due to the coalition’s changed equation after Nitish Kumar’s return to its fold. In the 2014 election, when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had broken away from the NDA, the BJP-led alliance had won 31 out of 40 seats, with the BJP bagging 22 seats, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP six and another Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP winning three.
If none of them yields any of their respective seats, only nine will be open to negotiations as against 25 that the JD-U had contested in 2009 as an NDA constituent. Although fighting separately in tie up with the Left parties in 2014, the Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) won only two seats, it buttresses its claim by pointing to its much improved show in the subsequent assembly elections when it won 71 seats out of a total of 243.
Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which was part of JD(U) along with the Congress in the grand alliance in 2015 Bihar poll, had emerged as the largest party with 80 seats. The BJP had managed to bag only 53 seats in the state poll while its partners LJP and RLSP could win only two seats each.
Now with the return of Nitish Kumar, who is heading the NDA ministry in the state, the JD(U) wants to see him driving the coalition in the state as was the case earlier during the time of A B Vajpayee and L K Advani. Predictably, it raised the pitch with its spokespersons claiming that the JD-U was in the role of “big brother” in the NDA in Bihar and should get a lion’s share of seats befitting its standing.
It also asserted that Kumar would be the NDA face in Bihar notwithstanding undisputed national appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP state general secretary Rajendra Singh was quick to assert that there was no question why his party should not contest either of the 22 seats it had won last time, and, in fact, it was prepared to contest all the 40 seats, if needed.
LJP Parliamentary Board chief Chirag Paswan also disputed the JD(U) claim on Kumar being the NDA face in Bihar, asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would alone would be the NDA face for Lok Sabha election campaign all over the country, including Bihar. RLSP of Union Minister of State Upendra Kushwaha too has questioned JD(U) “big brother” stance.
JD(U) spokespersons sought to defend their stance pointing out that the NDA had not done well when it fought without the credible and acceptable face of Nitish Kumar in the 2015 assembly polls. However, following reports on Shah’s impending visit to Patna, a top JD(U) leader and close confidant of Kumar, RCP Singh, lowered the pitch, dismissing the talk about his party being the “big brother” in Bihar NDA.
On a visit to Vaishali district near here, he said the terms like big brother and younger brother are appropriate to families and were not applicable to democracy and coalition, in which all were equals. The NDA in Bihar comprised BJP, JD(U), LJP and RLSP and all of them will sit together and sort out the issue of seat-sharing, he had said.
Amid speculation that JD(U) may be open to realignment, triggered by Kumar’s telephone call to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to ask about his health, Singh firmly ruled out the possibility of JD(U) joining the Congress-led UPA. He termed the Congress as a “sinking ship” and said there was no question of their going on board.
The NDA in 2019 general poll is likely to face a tough challenge from the rival RJD-Congress grouping in Bihar as in recent bypolls for Araria Lok Sabha seat and Jokihat and Jehanabad assembly constituencies, Lalu Prasad’s party nominees had defeated JD(U) rivals with big margins.