After flexing muscle, now the negotiations at Paswan meet with BJP
The Paswans, who head the Lok Janshakti Party, are attempting to ensure that they do not get a raw deal as the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United split the Bihar seats in an equal number.Updated: Dec 29, 2018 00:40 IST
After their two-hour talks with BJP chief Amit Shah, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan today met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who will oversee a formula for seat sharing in Bihar for next year’s Lok Sabha elections. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the BJP’s other ally in the state, has also arrived in Delhi earlier this evening to meet Jaitley.
The Paswans, who head the Lok Janshakti Party, are attempting to ensure that they do not get a raw deal as the BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United split the Bihar seats in an equal number. This deal was expected to leave Ram Vilas Pasawn’s party with six seats.
Six is not enough, say the Paswans, who are the only smaller ally left in Bihar after Upendra Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party walked out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in a huff earlier this month, also over seat sharing.
BJP sources told HT that the Paswans appear to be open to tweak their wish list. For now, it is being suggested to the LJP that it should settle for five seats in Bihar and pick a sixth seat outside the state.
“Talks are on, we will disclose details at a later date,” Chirag Paswan, 35, said after his meeting with Arun Jaitley in Parliament house today. Another LJP leader, Ramchandra Paswan, said, “We are still with the BJP. We aren’t yet considering leaving the alliance. We shall announce a seat sharing formula with the BJP.”
The LJP has started the negotiations, demanding seven seats in Bihar to contest as it had done in the 2014 elections, winning six and losing one by a very small margin. It would also like a Rajya Sabha seat for Ram Vilas Paswan, 72, who is a nine-term Lok Sabha member and the minister for food and public distribution in the Narendra Modi government, but wants to shift to the upper house for health reasons. The LJP is said to be ready to contest six Lok Sabha seats if Paswan senior is fielded for the Rajya Sabha.
Giving seven seats to the LJP will mean either the BJP or the JDU settling for one less, which neither party will be happy to do after Amit Shah announced last month that they would contest an equal number of seats, a number to be disclosed later. A single Rajya Sabha seat that the NDA can win in Assam also has many claimants from within the BJP.
The LJP leaders have said the BJP must finalise seat sharing in Bihar for the general elections by December 31. Chirag Paswan has reportedly written to Jaitley and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh seeking clarification on demonetisation and farm distress, seen as muscle flexing ahead of the seat sharing negotiations.
He had also earlier this week warned the BJP that it must treat allies “with respect” pointing out that it has lost partners like the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and Upendra Kushwaha, who has since joined the rival camp in Bihar, the mahagathbandan or grand alliance made up of Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and Jiten Manjhi’s party.
The mahagathbandhan had included Nitish Kumar, who joined hands with arch rival Lau Yadav and the Congress to contest the 2015 assembly elections in Bihar after his exit from the NDA cost him dearly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Nitish Kumar quit the mahagathbandhan last year and returned to the NDA fold.