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BJP, JD(U) to fight equal number of seats in Bihar in 2019 elections

At a press conference, Amit Shah said an announcement on the exact number of seats would be made in a day or two.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2018 00:00 IST
Vijay Swaroop and Anil Kumar
Vijay Swaroop and Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
BJP,JD(U),Nitish Kumar
BJP President Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar interact with the media at the former's residence in New Delhi, Friday, Oct 26, 2018.(PTI)

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and the BJP will contest equal number of seats in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP chief Amit Shah said on Friday, putting to rest speculations over differences between the two parties, but triggering concerns of a possible revolt by other partners of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar.

At a press conference, Shah said an announcement on the exact number of seats would be made in a day or two. The decision, which came after a meeting between Shah and Kumar in New Delhi, means the BJP will have to let go of some of the seats it contested five years ago. Bihar sends 40 representatives to the Lok Sabha. In the 2014 elections, the BJP contested 30 seats (won 22), while its partners the Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party contested seven (won six) and three (won three), respectively. The JD(U) was not part of the NDA then. KC Tyagi, the JD(U)’s principal general secretary, said, “Rank-and-file members are happy that their sentiments have been taken care of.”

Hindustan Times reported on July 11, ahead of a key meeting between Kumar and Shah, that the two parties had indicated their commitment to the alliance, with the BJP recognising Kumar’s importance in the state and the JD(U) seeking a resolution to the seat-sharing issue on “equal and respectable” terms.

That’s exactly what Shah and Kumar finalised on Friday.

However, the decision may have spooked the other partners of the NDA in the state, with media reports claiming RLSP president Upendra Kushwaha met Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Arwal district soon after Shah’s statement in Delhi.

The reported closed-door meeting lasted for 15 minutes. However, Union minister of state Kushwaha denied having held any closed-door meeting with the leader of Opposition in the state assembly. “It was nothing but a chance meeting as Tejashwi was also staying at the circuit house,” he told mediapersons.

In 2014, the BJP had a vote share of 29.86% in Bihar. Kumar’s JD(U), which contested separately, fought 38 seats but managed to win just two with a total vote share of 16.04%.

Leaders in Bihar, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there were two possibilities for the 2019 deal. First, the BJP and the JD(U) might contest 16 seats each, the RLSP three and the LJP five. Second, both the JD(U) and the BJP could fight 15 seats each, the LJP seven and the RLSP three.

“The reason behind the BJP conceding 16 seats to the JD (U) is to keep the alliance intact,” said one of these leaders who belongs to the BJP. He added that the BJP also recognises Kumar’s influence among the extremely backward classes, Kushwahas, Kurmis and Dalits.

“BJP has taken lessons from the 2015 assembly results and cannot afford to antagonise Kumar,” said the BJP leader, referring to his party’s defeat in the state elections in which the JD(U) was in an alliance with the Congress and Lalu Parasad’s RJD. That alliance has since broken up and Kumar is back in the NDA’s fold.

Kushwaha has been critical of Kumar’s government in the state, especially on law and order and education front. His party had been demanding a larger seat share in the NDA commensurate with the growing base of the RLSP.

Kushwaha remained non-committal on the issue. “Let the number of seats be declared. I have also talked to Amit Shah,” he said.

RJD legislator Ramanuj Prasad Yadav said, “We are ready to welcome all forces opposed to BJP, including the RLSP chief, with open arms. He has to take a call.”

Another RJD leader, who asked not to be named, claimed that LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan spoke to Tejashwi shortly after the BJP-JD (U) top shots addressed the media. LJP spokesperson Shrawan Kumar Agarwal denied this.

DM Diwakar, a social scientist at AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, said, “It (the seat-sharing deal) is victory of JD(U), and also indicates that BJP is getting weak. The BJP was desperate not to lose JD(U).”

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 23:46 IST