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BJP’s new math to make room for partner Nitish Kumar in 2019

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is yet to announce a seat-sharing agreement in Bihar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but has said it will contest an equal number of seats as the Janata Dal (United).

india Updated: Nov 09, 2018 10:33 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bihar,NDA,BJP
Nitish Kumar quit the NDA in 2013, protesting against Narendra Modi’s elevation as the BJP’s campaign committee chief. He joined hands with the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad for the 2015 assembly election. He returned to the NDA in 2017. (PTI Photo)

Candidate selection for about half of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies is on the table for discussion as the three National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners from 2014 make room for chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) into the coalition for the 2019 elections, according to three leaders familiar with negotiations.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is yet to announce a seat-sharing agreement in Bihar, but has said it will contest an equal number of seats as the JD(U). This means the BJP will have to let go of several seats where it won five years ago. Partnering with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Upendra Kushwaha in 2014, the BJP won 22 out of 30 seats it contested in 2014. The LJP won six out of seven seats and the RLSP won all three seats it contested, making the Bihar polls a virtual rout by the NDA.

“Now some (BJP legislators) will be dropped; a few will change their constituencies, and there will be exchange of seats between partners,” said a BJP leader who asked not to be named.

The broad agreement being discussed within the Bihar NDA is 17 seats each to the BJP and the JD(U), four to the LJP and two to the RLSP, a second leader said. To make this agreement work, the LJP may be given one Rajya Sabha seat as compensation.

A third leader said 72-year-old Union minister Paswan may not contest from his bastion Hajipur, a parliamentary constituency he first won in 1977 with a margin of over 4,00,000 votes, and opt for a Rajya Sabha berth instead. “This decision is based on health considerations,” the leader said.

Rajya Sabha will have two vacancies from BJP-ruled Assam next June and six from Tamil Nadu in July.

If Paswan does not contest, Hajipur may go to his parliamentarian son Chirag Paswan, who is currently an MP from Jamui, a Lok Sabha seat which will then have a new candidate.

Paswan’s brother Ramchandra is an MP from Samastipur and is likely to retain the seat. But the LJP may cede Vaishali and Munger Lok Sabha constituencies to create space for Nitish within the NDA fold.

Suspended Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad and rebel Patna Sahib MP Shatrughan Singh will not get BJP tickets, the first leader said. While Patna Sahib will remain with the BJP, the JD(U) is pitching for Darbhanga.

The three leaders also spoke about talks among several senior leaders about changing their constituencies – Union minister Giriraj Singh, who is an MP from Nawada, wants to take the Begusarai seat that was held by BJP’S Bhola Singh, who died last month; Union minister and Buxar MP Ashwini Choubey wants to shift to his home town Bhagalpur where former Union minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain lost in 2014; Hussain is also in contention for Bhagalpur.

Nitish quit the NDA in 2013, protesting against Narendra Modi’s elevation as the BJP’S campaign committee chief. He joined hands with the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad for the 2015 assembly election. He returned to the NDA in 2017.

Dr Shaibal Gupta, director of Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute, said Bihar politics was going through a lot of change.

“Socialist veterans such as Paswan and Lalu are trying to pass on the baton to the second generation, and those who did not come through a political process, like bureaucrats turned-politicians, are looking for a safer seat,” he said.

First Published: Nov 09, 2018 10:32 IST