NDA ally Jitan Ram Manjhi has queered the pitch for the alliance’s seat-sharing arrangement ahead of the Bihar assembly polls by demanding a greater share for his party than the 15 seats promised by the BJP.
Manjhi’s tough stance has led to a stalemate, forcing the state BJP to invoke its president Amit Shah’s adjudication to end the logjam.
Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) has said it should get more seats as it has 12 sitting legislators while Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kumar Kushwaha’s RLSP have none.
The LJP and RLSP have sought at least 50 and 36 seats, respectively, as they performed impressively in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The LJP won six of the seven Lok Sabha seats it contested while the RLSP won three.
Polls for the 243-member Bihar assembly will be held in October-November.
The LJP has said its leader Ram Vilas Paswan is the only one among the allies to have had a long stint at the Centre, so it should get the lion’s share of the seats left by the BJP.
Manjhi has contested this, saying, “That’s an egoistic statement. How does that (a stint at the Centre) matter among equal allies?”
LJP leaders had demanded earlier that senior HAM-S leader Narendra Singh and his two sons, who won on LJP tickets from its parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan’s constituency of Jamui in the 2010 assembly elections but defected to the JD(U) and then to Manjhi’s party, should not be nominated by the HAM-S or the BJP.
Manjhi reacted sharply, saying, “The LJP has been taken in by family politics. There is no way it can tell us who to nominate.”
There are no easy choices for the BJP in striking a balance between the Dalit leaders in the alliance. Paswan has been the acknowledged Dalit leader in Bihar for long while Manjhi’s stature has grown since he resigned from the CM’s chair last January.
Meanwhile, a war of words intensified within the NDA camp on Tuesday, with Manjhi questioning Paswan’s credentials as a Dalit leader.
“He (Paswan) claims to be a Dalit leader, but what has he done for them?” Manjhi asked, angry over Paswan’s statement a few days ago that the HAM-S was on trial in the NDA.