Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has stunned its alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Patna by announcing that it would contest 26 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
JD-U state president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh said late on Wednesday night that his party would contest 26 seats in view of the "winnability" factor. The JD-U had contested 24 seats in the 2004 parliamentary elections.
"We had already handed over a list of parliamentary constituencies to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and are expecting a reply soon," said Singh, a leader considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
He said the party would formally name its candidates in a day or two.
"Last month the party had staked claim to contest 28 seats but later reduced it to 26 seats not to harm interests of the ruling alliance with BJP," another senior JD-U leader said.
However, BJP leaders including party MPs and ministers in the Nitish Kumar-led government in the state were unhappy and angry with the JD-U move to go public with its decision to contest more seats than last time before the matter was finally decided between them.
"It is not a healthy sign. It would send a wrong message to party workers and people," a BJP leader said on Thursday.
BJP leaders also expressed displeasure over JD-U's claim to the Kishanganj, Araria, Katihar and Bhagalpur seats, which were contested by the BJP in the last elections.
"How can BJP give up these seats to the JD-U? Earlier Kishanganj was won by BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain, a former central minister, who is currently party MP from Bhagalpur," another BJP leader said.
However, JD-U leaders said that on these four seats, Muslim voters decide the fate of candidates. "After several welfare schemes initiated by Nitish Kumar for Muslims and his bid to win over the community regarded as loyal to Railways Minister Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the JD-U has a strong chance to defeat its rival in the elections," a JD-U legislator, who is a likely candidate from one of these seats, told IANS in Patna.
However, leaders in both JD-U and BJP are hopeful that everything will be sorted out smoothly. "If Lalu's RJD and LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) of Ramvilas Paswan can manage their differences for an united UPA (United Progressive Alliance), why can't the BJP and JD-U," one of them said.