PATNA: Minutes after BJP national president Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of JD(U) announced jointly on Friday that the two parties would contest on an equal number of seats in Bihar in next year’s Lok Sabha polls, an unscheduled meeting between RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav sparked speculation about RLSP planning to quit NDA.
Kushwaha, who is the Union minister of state for HRD, and Yadav met at the Circuit House in Bihar’s Arwal and discussed the latest political developments for more than ten minutes. Kushwaha, an influential leader of Bihar’s numerically sizeable OBC Koeri community, is unhappy as BJP and JD(U) are unwilling to grant his party more than two seats to contest, said sources.
“The two leaders discussed the possible seat-sharing arrangement in the RJD-led Grand Alliance when RLSP snaps ties with NDA and joins the Grand Alliance. RJD has already assured RLSP of six to eight seats,” said a senior RJD leader familiar with the Arwal meeting.
Meeting took place. But it's not compulsory to reveal what did we talk. Ek hi din mein sabkuch thodi na hota hai. Dhire dhire aage gaadi badhti hai: RJD Leader Tejashwi Yadav on meeting Union Minister and RLSP Chief Upendra Kushwaha at Arwal Circuit guest house. #Bihar pic.twitter.com/uBsn3C8N67— ANI (@ANI) October 26, 2018
While Shah and Nitish Kumar, who is also JD(U) national president, did not specify the number of seats their two parties would contest, sources put the number at 17 each. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats, and this arrangement leaves only six seats for the two smaller NDA partners in the state – Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), headed by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Sources in BJP and JD(U) said RLSP, which had contested on three seats and won them all in 2014, would get two seats to contest in 2019 while LJP, which had contested on seven seats and won six of them in 2014, would get four seats. RLSP has been demanding at least five seats while LJP wants no less than seven.
“Contesting on equal number of seats is a matter between BJP and JD(U). Announcing seat-sharing deals without keeping everyone on the dais is not exactly the right thing to do. We expect a fair allocation of seats keeping in mind RLSP’s enhanced support base. Our aim is to ensure Narendra Modi becomes PM once again,” said RLSP national general secretary Madhaw Anand to The New Indian Express.
Nothing is final on seat sharing. Amit Shah ji also said that we will finalise it in a few days. Meeting with Tejashwi Yadav was just a coincidence: Union Minister and RLSP Chief Upendra Kushwaha on his meeting with RJD Leader Tejashwi Yadav at Arwal Circuit guest house. #Bihar pic.twitter.com/mRt5KlwILs— ANI (@ANI) October 26, 2018
LJP leaders also appeared unhappy about the emerging seat-sharing pact in NDA for Bihar. Sources said LJP parliamentary party president Chirag Paswan, who is party chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s son, reportedly spoke over phone with Tejashwi Yadav for over 15 minutes soon after the Amit Shah-Nitish Kumar joint press conference in New Delhi.
“Since LJP has earlier been an ally of RJD and Congress, there is a possibility that the party would return to its old home well before the Lok Sabha polls if its value is ignored by BJP and JD(U),” said an LJP leader.