Paswan-BJP deal sparks buzz around Bollywood set designer aka ‘Son of Mallah’
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan have, sources said, agreed that their Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will contest only five of the 40 members that Bihar sends to the Lok Sabha, and one in Uttar Pradesh or Jharkhand.Updated: Dec 22, 2018 07:47 IST
With the BJP and a sulking set of Paswans appearing to have agreed on seat sharing in Bihar for the 2019 elections after several rounds of talks, there is intense speculation now over who will contest one seat that the math so far isolates. Re-enter Mukesh Sahni, who calls himself the Son of Mallah (boatman).
But first the numbers. Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan have, sources said, agreed that their Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will contest only five of the 40 members that Bihar sends to the Lok Sabha, and one in Uttar Pradesh or Jharkhand.
Provided Paswan senior, currently a Lok Sabha MP, gets a Rajya Sabha seat.
The LJP had earlier demanded seven, the number it had contested in 2014. But senior allies BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) reportedly want to contest 17 seats each in an equal split decided upon earlier.
If the Paswans are okay with five, there are 35 parliamentary seats in Bihar up for grabs and leaders in both the BJP and JD (U) asserted that neither side will climb down from the 50:50 formula and agree to the other contesting 18 seats to its 17.
A leader who is familiar with today’s negotiations, said the BJP and the JDU may thus contest 17 seats each and one may go to Mukesh Sahni, a 38-year-old former Bollywood set designer who launched an outfit of his own, Vikasheel Insaan Party, last month. The buzz is that he intends to contest the Lok Sabha election from the Muzaffarpur seat, currently held by the BJP.
Sahni calls himself the son of Mallah (boatman), and had first made headlines before the Bihar assembly elections in 2015, when he pledged to organise the Nishads — who include a number of backward sub-castes including the Mallahs — into a political force.
Mukesh Sahni, who has designed sets of blockbusters such as Devdas and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, didn’t contest the 2015 elections. But he did make an impact.
Sahni last month told Hindustan Times that leaders from the NDA and other alliances were in touch with him. “Whoever offers the best deal, we will join them,” Sahni had said.
Inducting Sahni as an ally into the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the leader said, will also help fill the gap left by Upendra Kushwaha, a backward class leader who exited the alliance earlier this month over seats sharing. Kushwaha has now joined the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance in Bihar which is made up of six parties and includes Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and Jitan Ram Majhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular.
The Kushwahas make up for a little over 6 per cent of the state’s population. But the Nishad account for 14 per cent and, Sahni believes, can influence the outcome in at least 15 Lok Sabha seats.