PATNA: With the NDA set to start consultations to hold the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Assembly polls in several states simultaneously, Bihar CM and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar’s consent for the experiment in his state has come as a shot in the arm for the saffron party. Nitish certainly eyes massive gains at the expense of his arch rival Lalu Prasad Yadav of RJD.
Four days after Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi put forward BJP’s aim of holding Lok Sabha and Assembly polls simultaneously, JD(U)’s Bihar state president Bashistha Narain Singh said his party is ready for Assembly elections in 2019. His overture summed up the current mood of optimism within JD(U), which became an ally of BJP in July after a four-year break and shares power with it in Bihar.
The tenure of Bihar’s present Assembly ends in November 2020, almost a year and a half after the Lok Sabha’s term ends. Nitish is willing to forgo the Assembly’s remaining tenure after May 2019, when Lok Sabha polls are to be held. That is because he and most leaders in JD(U) believe that joint campaigns by JD(U) and BJP for the two polls simultaneously, with he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing rallies, would decimate the Opposition RJD and Congress in Bihar.
RJD, the largest party in the 243-member Bihar Assembly with 80 MLAs compared to JD(U)’s 71 and BJP’s 52, has protested against plans to hold simultaneous polls. Congress, which had its best performance in 20 years in the 2015 Assembly polls by winning 27 seats, has also come out in protest.
Sources said Nitish, apprehensive that BJP may deny his party enough seats, has asked his team of poll strategists to enhance JD(U)’s organisational presence and activities in each of the 243 Assembly constituencies.
“The CM wants to make sure that the party starts working afresh at the grassroots level right now so that its chances of winning all the 243 seats rises,” said a JD(U) leader. “If we disagree with the number of seats they (BJP) let us contest, then we may contest all seats on our own. In that scenario there will also be no alliance with BJP for the Lok Sabha polls,” the source added.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, JD(U) had contested in 38 of Bihar’s 40 constituencies on its own and managed to win only two, while NDA won 32 seats. This time around, with BJP and JD(U) in alliance, BJP is unwilling to allot to JD(U) as many seats as it wants. JD(U) leaders were alarmed at BJP’s tentative sea-sharing plan after party president Amit Shah’s meeting with senior BJP leaders from Bihar in New Delhi on Thursday. BJP sources said that JD(U) may be given four more seats to contest apart from the two it won in 2014—Nalanda and Purnea.
“That is a kind of seat distribution that we’ll not agree with. We expect much better. In the event of simultaneous polls, we hope we will get our fare share,” said a JD(U) election strategist.