MARKING THE run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP reached out to pacify key ally Lok Janshakti Party led by Ram Vilas Paswan on the same day that former ally Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party officially crossed over to the Opposition’s grand alliance.
As Kushwaha joined the Congress-RJD-led “mahagathbandhan” at the AICC headquarters in the presence of Congress’s Ahmed Patel, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Jitan Ram Manjhi, top leaders of the BJP held talks with Union Minister Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan.
While Kushwaha’s move was on expected lines after his repeated complaints over not getting an adequate number of seats to contest from in the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, Chirag Paswan had expressed unease on Tuesday over the delay in finalising the seat-sharing formula for the state.
In a flurry of political activity, BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Bhupender Yadav reached Paswan’s residence to meet the two LJP leaders.
After 30 minutes, the three went to BJP president Amit Shah’s residence together where they were joined by finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Earlier in the day, Shah, Jaitley, and Yadav had held a closed-door meeting in Jaitley’s chamber in Parliament.
Reacting to the day’s developments, sources in the Congress indicated that the doors of the grand alliance “are not shut for Paswan”. They said Kushwaha’s RLSP is likely to be given three to four seats.
“Paswan seems to be indulging in pressure tactics, but he will face some problems as our assessment is that Dalits are upset in Bihar. So it is beneficial for him to switch sides. But there is an ego problem between Tejashwi (Yadav) and Chirag (Paswan). There is also a bigger, and older, ego tussle between Ram Vilas and (JDU chief) Nitish Kumar,” a senior Congress leader told The Indian Express.
Welcoming Kushwaha to the alliance, Tejashwi told reporters: “Talks are on to forge a grand alliance at the national level… So I think everyone should sacrifice their egos as much as possible in the interest of the nation and to save the Constitution and the country and we are doing that.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil said: “This is an alliance of hearts and ideologies. There is no problem with regard to seat-sharing. We will decide on who will contest in which seat on the basis of winnability.” Sources said the alliance partners will meet in the first week of January to take stock.
Kushwaha reiterated the essence of his resignation letter to the Prime Minister and said that “people tried to weaken me and my party…bring down the number of seats… Then, Nitish Kumar joined… He wanted to finish me and the forces in Delhi joined him”.