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As BJP reassures Nitish Kumar, ally JD(U) says all is well

Ahead of Amit Shah’s meet with CM Nitish Kumar, leaders from both sides deny seat-sharing woes.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2018 07:57 IST
Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP,JD(U),Nitish Kumar
JD(U) leaders maintain Nitish Kumar has good ties with BJP.(PTI File Photo)

In the run-up to a key meeting between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on Thursday that comes amid reports of differences between the two parties, the BJP has sent a message of reassurance to Kumar that it respects Janata Dal (United)’s status in Bihar, and sees Kumar as indispensable to the future of the state, a key political leader involved closely in the dialogue between the BJP and JD(U) said.

This message, he added, has removed doubts about the alliance , and has reinforced that the partners will contest the elections together in 2019.

The JD(U), in turn, has conveyed to the BJP it is firmly committed to the alliance, is comfortable in it and wishes to resolve the 2019 seat-sharing issue, on “equal and respectable” terms, at the earliest since it will help the alliance as a whole, this person said on the condition of anonymity.

The BJP-JD(U) dialogue is being monitored and conducted at the highest levels with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah,and Kumar in the loop. The JD(U) expects the meeting with Shah would kick start the process of formalising the specifics of the electoral understanding.

“Nitish ji made a conscious choice to join hands with the BJP. And we are far more comfortable in this alliance than we were with the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Governance is smoother; there is no day-to-day political interference in administration; there is a clear division of responsibility; and Nitish ji has good personal ties with BJP leaders,” a JD(U) leader familiar with the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.

When asked about the perception of rift, he argued: “Our only point to the BJP was simple: let us resolve the seat-sharing issue at the earliest. And let us have an equal and respectable arrangement. They have indicated to us in the past few weeks that they agree with this. At the highest levels, the party has told us that they cannot imagine a Bihar without Nitish Kumar.”

The formula that JD(U) has tentatively proposed is that the BJP first ask its 2014 allies, Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Janshakti Party) and Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samta Party), to take a cut in their share of Lok Sabha seats in the state. The LJP contested seven seats and the RLSP put up candidates in four seats in the 2014 elections.

“Once we have given them their share, BJP and JD(U) should divide it (the rest) equally. Our point is that JD(U) should not come across looking like the junior partner. If that happens, it is not good for the alliance, since our base will get demotivated and won’t work or vote with the same enthusiasm,” the JD(U) leader added. In case an equal distribution is not possible, JD(U) could be open to an arrangement where it gets more seats in the Bihar assembly polls, to be held in 2020.

Officially, both parties reiterated commitment to the alliance.

Bhupender Yadav, BJP general secretary in charge of Bihar, said, “Our president is touring the country and will be in Bihar on Thursday. We have an alliance which is doing excellent work. All issues will be resolved amicably and the National Democratic Alliance will fight the election together in all seats in Bihar.”

In a recent interview, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was earlier the BJP’s in-charge for Bihar, said, “Nitishji is our political ally. He will contest with us. He is and will remain the chief ally of PM Modi in the state.” When asked about seat-sharing, in the context where the BJP and its allies already have 31 of 40 seats in the state, he said, “Don’t see things from the old prism. He is the face of our government there. He will have a role in sharing of seats.”

Sanjay Jha, JD(U) national general secretary, said, “Our alliance is intact. We will fight elections together.” When asked how the issue of seat-sharing will be resolved, he said, “Both sides have maturity in their leadership and will resolve all issues.”

Shaibal Gupta, director of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute, said, “It is correct that Nitish Kumar feels far more comfortable with the BJP than with the RJD. Contrary to general impression, the BJP-JD(U) alliance looks set to continue till 2019 elections. They will arrive at some kind of seat-sharing arrangement.”

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 07:57 IST