Bihar Assembly election 2020: RJD woos Paswan as LJP weighs options outside NDA

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Updated: September 09, 2020 10:11 AM

The LJP is a constituent of the NDA but has no representation in Nitish Kumar's Cabinet.

LJP national president Chirag Paswan.

The grand alliance constituents in Bihar have hinted that they are ready to accommodate the Lok Janshakti Party which is on a warpath with Bihar ally Janata Dal United ahead of Assembly elections in the state. The grand alliance comprises four parties — RJD, Congress, RLSP and VIP.

The development comes as tensions simmer between the LJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United). Leaders of the two political parties have been engaged in a verbal back and forth over the past few months.

Sensing the uncertainty within the NDA camp, RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewari said that the LJP should not tolerate insults in the NDA, adding that the party is ready for talks with anyone.

“We are open to working with anyone who is with our leader Tejashwi Yadav,” he replied when asked if the RJD was open to an alliance with LJP. He added that RJD stood to gain even in a three-way contest.

A Congress leader also said that the election will become very interesting if there is a three-way contest.

“Caste calculations will be revisited if LJP walks out of NDA. Grand Alliance can also accommodate Chirag. If Chirag leaves NDA, its social arithmetic will fall flat,” the leader told The Indian Express.

The LJP is a constituent of the NDA but has no representation in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet. The LJP had joined ranks with the BJP after Nitish’s exit ahead of the 2014 general elections. When Nitish returned to the NDA in 2017, the LJP was already a constituent of the NDA. The LJP got one berth, but its minister Pashupati Paras had to resign after he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hajipur in the general elections held in May 2019. The LJP has only two MLAs in the outgoing Legislative Assembly.

The LJP, founded in 2000 by Ram Vilas Paswan, has a considerable following amongst the Dalit population in the state. Any split in the NDA will only benefit the grand alliance following the exit of Jitan Ram Manjhi. Manjhi is also a Dalit politician and has a strong base among the Extreme Backward Classes. The BJP and JD(U) see this as an incentive but the LJP’s continuous attack on Nitish Kumar has left the alliance in a state of turmoil.

The LJP earlier this week decided to put up a list of 143 names for the elections and authorised its national president Chirag Paswan to take a final call on whether to contest the elections under leadership of Nitish Kumar. Chirag is likely to take the final call in a week.

JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said that it is the LJP that keeps saying “it has no alliance with us”.

“I would say in reaction that technically we never had any alliance with LJP right from 1998 Lok Sabha election to 2005 and 2010 Assembly elections. LJP not accepting Nitish as NDA leader in Bihar is defying Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former BJP president Amit Shah and current BJP president J P Nadda, who have said on many occasions that Bihar Assembly polls would be fought under Nitish’s leadership,” he told the daily.

He added that Chirag Paswan was providing electoral arsenal to RJD by criticising Nitish Kumar’s governance model.

“We are thankful to Tyagi for telling us that we are not in alliance with JD(U)… Our leader Chirag Paswan is for ‘Bihar First, Bihari First’. Those who are not with this thought cannot take Bihar forward,” LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari said.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said that the LJP is not going anywhere. “Our national president JP Nadda had said clearly during the recent state executive meet that BJP-JD(U)-LJP makes a great winning combination,” he said.

BJP sources in Delhi told the IE that some senior party leaders have been in talks with Chirag Paswan to keep him in the NDA.

The NDA in Bihar comprises four political parties — JD(U), BJP, LJP and HAM. The state is slated to go to the polls in October-November this year.

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