NEW DELHI: With about 10 months to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, NDA allies in Bihar have started flexing muscles with regard to seat adjustments. Having signalled to the BJP that the Janata Dal (United) was the senior partner in the NDA alliance in Bihar, party president and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is making allies guessing about his next move.
While state BJP leaders sought to play down the signs of strain in the alliance and struck a conciliatory note, the party remains firm that the 2014 Lok Sabha verdict had settled the debate about the face of the alliance—that is, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Deputy CM and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said Monday that Nitish was the ruling alliance’ leader in the state and that the NDA would seek votes in his name and that of PM Narendra Modi’s works.
However, BJP leaders feel having quit the NDA in 2013 and re-joined in 2017, Nitish has exhausted his options to drive hard bargains. “The JD(U) had won two Lok Sabha seats and came second in three parliamentary constituencies. The party bagged 71 seats in the 2015 Assembly polls that it fought in alliance with the RJD and the Congress. Both the elections demonstrated that the JD (U) was no more the leading political outfit in the state,” said a senior BJP functionary.
This came in the wake of assertions by the JD(U) that Nitish was the leader of the NDA alliance in Bihar after party national general secretary K C Tyagi and former Rajya Sabha MP Pawan Verma met the CM in Patna on Sunday.
“The BJP is well-prepared for pressure tactics which may be attempted by the NDA alliance partners. We still have a lot of time to actually sit down for seat adjustment talks,” the BJP functionary said and made it clear that “the NDA partners have to begin discussing the shape of seat adjustments on the basis of the outcome of 2014 Lok Sabha verdict”.
The ruling NDA is looking too crowded to allow a comfortable seat adjustments among the allies. Having won seven Lok Sabha seats, the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) is not keen to cede space to the JD(U) while the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), with two MPs, maintains the party has a strategic vote base which the BJP can’t ignore.
The BJP, the LJP and the RLSP had together won 32 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. “We are looking at a prospect in 2019 where the JD(U) will have to make adjustments according to the ground realities and settle for less than a dozen parliamentary seats,” said a BJP leader.