Ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, the differences within the incumbent regime has been highlighted once again with BJP ally Lok Janashakti Party’s president, Chirag Paswan, writing to the Prime Minister about the disagreement on the seat sharing alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal- United. Meanwhile, his father and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who has been ailing, last week stated that he will support his son’s decision for polls in Bihar, his home state.
The letter written by Chirag Paswan has strengthened the ongoing speculation of his new political stand and possibility of a realignment ahead of the Assembly polls. Local LJP leaders claimed that the letter to Modi was a confidential one but hinted that the content was related to the seat sharing formula of the party.
This development has come two days after BJP president J P Nadda announced that there was no problem between JD-U and LJP over seat sharing for polls and everything is alright in the NDA. Nadda made this public after he met and had a discussion with Nitish Kumar, who is also JD-U president, on the much awaited seat sharing formula and their joint strategy for polls. But the meeting was marked by the absence of LJP leaders and other allies including Hindustani Awami Morcha of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently joined NDA.
According to sources in JD-U, Nitish Kumar is adamant to divide the 243 Assembly seats in the state between JD-U and BJP with more seats for his party as per old arrangements since 2005. JD-U wants BJP to share seats with LJP from its own seats. However, BJP is bending towards an equal arrangement between the three (BJP, LJP and JD-U).
Earlier this month, Chirag Paswan had threatened to put up candidates against all JD-U candidates in polls if they are not given respectable seats. The junior Paswan has repeatedly targeted Nitish Kumar and his government in recent months on one or other issues. In a latest salvo, Paswan in his letter to Modi said that people are not happy with the functioning of Bihar government and this may impact NDA in the upcoming Assembly elections.
This is not the first time, there have been reports of widening differences between Chirag and Nitish Kumar over several issues. Interestingly though, Chirag Paswan has so far neither targeted BJP nor questioned the central government led by it in connection with any issue. Instead, he has repeatedly praised Modi.
However, BJP leaders have reportedly admitted that the differences between allies would be resolved and LJP would contest polls together. “We are trying hard to keep LJP with the NDA,” BJP leader Nikhil Anand said.
LJP leaders said that the party has been demanding to contest at least 42 out of 243 Assembly seats. The LJP’s stand has put BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) in a fix, with both trying to contest the maximum number of seats possible while keeping a share of 20 to 25 seats for the LJP. This has angered the party, which has hardened its stand against Nitish Kumar’s JD-U in a muscle-flexing exercise for seat-sharing.
Also read: Bihar: Ahead of Polls, NDA a Divided House with an Unhappy LJP Flexing its Muscles
It has also exposed the much publicised myth that the NDA is united in the state. In July, Chirag Paswan removed Munger district unit president Raghvendra Bharti for publicly stating that the NDA was “intact” and that there were no differences over seats. Before that, he had asked party leaders to be ready to contest from all 243 assembly seats. It had fuelled speculation in political circles that the LJP was angry about being sidelined within the NDA.
Paswan’s discontentment also arose due to the JD-U inducting Manjhi’s HAM in the NDA. Manjhi is a Dalit leader like Chirag’s father Ram Vilas Paswan and is seen to weaken LJP’s bargaining in seat sharing for polls.
Meanwhile, political observers argue that the LJP’s move is to force its hand in the seat-sharing bargaining. There is no reason for the LJP to walk away from the NDA. According to them the LJP’s bargaining chip in the NDA is its social support base among the Dusadhs, a militant dalit caste, which constitutes about 4% of the total votes in the state.