Patna: With the process of candidates filing their nomination beginning on Thursday, the deadlock over seat-sharing in the two major alliances – the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the opposition Grand Alliance – is unlikely to be resolved soon.
Chirag Paswan, the Lok Janshakti Party president, is giving sleepless nights to both the BJP and the JD-U by driving hard bargains for more seats. Chirag has hardened his stance over the past two days, so much so that top BJP leaders are imploring for a resolution. The younger Paswan has threatened to field candidates against the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U if not given tickets to favourable seats.
According to local LJP leaders, Chirag’s stance reflects their anger against the CM’s tendency to neglect the party. LJP leaders have now demanded that Chirag should be the chief ministerial candidate in place of Nitish Kumar.
While BJP leader Nikhil Anand says there is “no problem” within the NDA over the arrangement, the signs suggest otherwise.
Chirag is refusing to budge despite BJP president J.P. Nadda holding talks with him on Monday. He also met former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, who is the election in-charge of the BJP in Bihar, and Bhupendar Yadav, the party in-charge for Bihar.
According to sources within the BJP, former party president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to talk to Chirag on Thursday. “We are hopeful that the issue will be resolved sooner rather than later,” another BJP leader said.
However, L JP leader Shahnawaz Kaifi said that Chirag and the party will not bow down before anyone. He said the party will contest from 143 assembly seats in case it is not given its due in the NDA’s seat-sharing formula. While Chirag is not against the BJP, he does not have a soft corner for the JD-U and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi of the Hindustani Awam Morcha, an ally. Manjhi is a Dalit leader like Chirag’s father, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Political observer A.K. Mishra said Chirag did not have any beef with the BJP and has been targeting Nitish Kumar for months now. “BJP will not allow LJP to part ways with the NDA. It was clear as top leaders are trying to pacify Chirag and also talking to Nitish Kumar. Time and again BJP leaders have made it clear that all three allies (BJP-JD-U and LJP) will contest the polls together,” he added.
Mishra said the BJP understands that the LJP is trying to force its hand in the seat-sharing bargaining. There is no reason for the LJP to walk away from the NDA, he said. The LJP’s bargaining chip is its social support base among the Dusadhs, a militant Dalit caste, which constitutes about four percent of the total votes in the state.
Meanwhile, over in the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance), the Congress has threatened the RJD that it will go alone if the party was not given 70 out of the 243 assembly seats to contest from. The RJD has offered 58 seats and the bypoll-due parliamentary seat of Valmikinagar to the Congress.
Congress state president Madan Mohan Jha has said that the party will not accept the seat-sharing formula on offer. “We have made it clear to the RJD that the Congress will explore other possibilities than the alliance,” he added.
Shakti Singh Gohil, the Congress in-charge for Bihar, party general secretary Tarique Anwar and former Lok Sabha speaker and senior party leader, Meira Kumar, have held talks with RJD leaders thrice over the past few days in a bid to end the deadlock.
After the RJD issued an ultimatum, party leaders are expected to either meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi or former party chief Rahul Gandhi to take a call, a senior Congress leader said.
Left parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) are keen on contesting alongside the Grand Alliance, but the RJD’s seat-sharing formula has disappointed them.
On Wednesday, the CPI (ML) released its list of 30 candidates for the polls. “We are still keen for an alliance with the RJD but cannot wait further. The RJD should show political maturity to strengthen the opposition alliance,”CPI (ML) leader Dhirendra Jha said.
The CPI (ML), which has three sitting MLAs in the state assembly, was offered 12 seats by the RJD. The party initially wanted to contest from 53 seats but later changed its stance and demanded to contest at least 20 seats. “Our party was ready to contest from 20 seats for sake of unity and to defeat the NDA. But the RJD would not budge,” party state secretary Kunal said.
According to sources within the party, talks between RJD and the CPI (ML) ended without a decision on seat-sharing earlier this week. The latter is not ready to give up its claim on seats, given its stronghold over Jagdishpur, Sandesh, Ara in Bhojpur district, Obra in Aurangabad district and two seats in Siwan.
The RJD has reportedly agreed to give two seats to the CPI (M) but the party is demanding a larger share. While the former has increased its offer of seats to the CPI from three to six, talks have not yielded results.