Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and BJP president Amit Shah will meet in capital Patna today to discuss seat-sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The all-important meeting comes amid reports of serious differences between the two alliance partners in Bihar, with the JD(U) trying to flex its muscle for a better deal among other partners of the National Democratic Alliance in the state.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah is scheduled to meet Janata Dal (United) national president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over breakfast and dinner during his day-long visit to Patna. It is expected that the two top leaders will discuss the issue of seat-sharing for both Lok Sabha polls and 2020 Assembly polls. This is Shah’s first visit to the state after 2015 assembly polls.
According to reports, Shah will first meet Kumar over breakfast at the State Guest House and again for dinner at the CM’s official residence 1, Anne Marg.
Shah will also hold three hectic review meetings with party officials of different wings in the state capital. Top party leaders including national general secretary and in-charge for Bihar Bhupendra Yadav, Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and all the Union ministers hailing from the state are likely to be present at the meetings.
Citing top sources in the JD(U), a report in The Indian Express said that the party is expecting parity on seat-sharing for the general elections and assembly polls. For 2020 assembly polls, they said that leaders will be comfortable if the NDA adopts the formula that the JD(U) adopted with the RJD for 2015 polls. The NDA has currently four partners in Bihar – BJP, JD(U), LJP and RLSP.
A top leader told the daily that the party is not looking at playing the role of ‘elder brother’ in the alliance for general elections and it is open to settling issues with the ‘formula of equity, parity and mutual respect’.
“The Chief Minister has already played down talks about the JD(U) playing elder brother and said that there is no basis to the talks on seat-sharing between the two parties,” a senior JD(U) leader told the daily.
On playing ‘elder brother’ in the NDA, he cited the RJD’s style of always reminding the JD(U) that Kumar is CM despite the fact his party was a junior partner in the Grand Alliance. He said that they “do not want to repeat the same with the BJP”. He said that party leaders were “uncomfortable” with RJD because of one reason that “Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi Yadav (then the deputy CM) would often remind us that we were a junior partner in the Grand Alliance”.
“Lalu-ji would often use expressions such as “jao, tilak laga diya, raaj karo (we have applied tilak, go and rule), and Tejashwi would say – CM toh chacha hi rahenge (uncle Nitish will remain CM),” he said.
The leader said that such expressions from the RJD supremo and his sons including senior leaders had only hurt Kumar. Besides, it was also a factor that demoralised the party cadre.
In the previous assembly polls held in October-November 2015, the JD(U)-RJD-Congress had contested elections together. While the RJD won 80 of the 101 seats it had contested, Kumar’rs party bagged 71 seats out of 101 seats where it was in fray. But RJD leaders and the Congress backed Kumar’s candidature for the CM’s job.
Another senior leader told IE that BJP leaders have been very graceful and that JD(U) leaders know that the “BJP values us”. He said that leaders are hopeful that the BJP will offer a number “we can agree happily”.
“We do not know what the BJP will offer us, but they have been very graceful and not reacted even once,” he said.
“We know the BJP values us and will offer a number we can agree on happily,” the added. “It is not about what the BJP did in 2014 and how we fared then; it is about how we can do well together in 2019.”
In 2013, Kumar had snapped 17-year-old ties with the BJP over the party’s annointment of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The party had contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls alone but failed to make any impact winning just two seats. Before this, the JD(U) and BJP contested elections together. In 2009, Kumar’s party had contested 25 seats and won 20 whereas the BJP had won 11 of 15 seats it contested.