NEW DELHI: At the appointed hour on Monday, BJP general secretary and in-charge of party affairs in Bihar, Bhupendra Yadav, took a closer look at the 16 chairs kept on the dais in the BJP headquarters to make sure those carrying the name of the occupants were in correct order, lest it leaves some bruised egos. A few minutes later, party chief Amit Shah, showcasing a hard-earned truce with 15 carefully chosen leaders, including allies, by his side announced the seat-sharing arrangement for the State Assembly elections, billed as the most keenly-contested polls since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP will get the lion’s share with 160 seats, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party, the second highest 40 seats, Central minister Upendra Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party 23 seats, and former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s party 20 seats in the 243-seat Assembly. BJP claimed have stitched a broad alliance giving representation to different castes in order to take on the ruling JDU-RJD-Congress alliance.
Manjhi, who played hardball till the last minute seeking the same number of seats as Paswan, appears to have been assured of better options after the elections. At least five of his MLAs are likely to be given the ticket through the BJP. In all likelihood, he may not contest the elections, bringing balance in the alliance, amid hints that he may be given a better position. Manjhi later said he was “satisfied”.
Declaring that the elections were being fought under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, appealed to the voters: “You have given chance to RJD, JDU, and Congress. This time give NDA a chance. We will bring development.” Shah hit out at the unlikely partnership of RJD-JDU saying it has brought back the fear of jungle raj (lawlessness).
With Manjhi and Paswan by his side, Shah said all matters have been resolved and told media representatives not to rake up contentious issues between them. “There is no tug of war. There is no tension. You can see their smiling faces,” Shah said pointing to the leaders.
The presence of several leaders on the dais showed the pecking order in which the polls were being contested with many of them nurturing chief ministerial aspirations. Paswan’s son Chirag was also seated, while leader of Bihar opposition Nand Kishore Yadav and from the BJP former deputy CM Sushil Modi, Central minister Giriraj Singh, State BJP chief Mangal Pandey, along with State in-charges such as Bhupendra Yadav and ministers Ananth Kumar and Dharmendra Pradhan were present.
Giving a hint on how the party would approach alliance partners, Shah said the issue of chief ministerial candidate and the deputy CM would be decided after the elections. It perhaps suggests that an ally may get the second highest post.
BJP will hold a meeting of its central election committee on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide on candidates for the first two phases of the elections. Names are likely to declared.