Despite the claims that ‘all is well’ and the ‘NDA is united’, seat-sharing in the alliance is still stuck in seat-to-seat nitty-gritty. The alliance leaders, however, are confident that everything will be sorted out before the nomination for the first phase elections starts in October first week.
The alliance is yet to announce the number of seats to be contested by each of the allies. The JD(U) and the BJP sources said that the main hitch is between two main alliance partners, the BJP and the JD(U), which are hooked on several issues. “Discussion on seat-to-seat basis is taking place. Announcements would be made by the end of this month,” said a senior NDA leader.
Bihar BJP in-charge and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav had already discussed the seat-sharing exercise with JD(U) MPs, Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh and RCP Singh.
One of the key reasons for the delay, alliance sources said, is the division of 51 seats between the BJP and the JD(U), which both parties contested against each other in 2015 assembly polls. “The JD(U) had won 28 seats and the BJP 23. Both are staking claims by the virtue of vote share, traditional seats and other logic,” said an NDA leader.
Another reason why seat-sharing has become a concern for the ruling allies is seven RJD MLAs who joined the JD(U) recently. All seven had won from seats contested by the BJP or the LJP in 2015. The constituencies they represented are Patepur, Gaighat, Parsa, Keoti, Sasaram, Teghra and Paliganj.
“Under these circumstances, the 2010 results are most likely to become the basis of contesting the 2020 polls. Some of these seats will go to JD(U) and it will forgo some,” said an NDA leader.
The problem for the NDA has been further compounded with joining of Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM-S) and speculations that former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) may also join the alliance.
“There is no confusion in the NDA with regards to seat-sharing. As far as the RLSP is concerned, there have been no talks with them so far,” clarified BJP state president Dr Sanjay Jaiswal on Sunday.
BJP sources said that for the first time, party high-ups have been put under pressure by MPs from the state who have urged the central leadership to have an equal share with the JD(U)’s. The total strength of the Bihar assembly is 243 seats, while the number of Lok Sabha seats in the state is 40. In Lok Sabha, both the JD(U) and the BJP had contested 17 seats each, leaving six for the LJP. The BJP and the LJP won all its seat while the JD(U) lost one.
“The BJP was gracious enough to part with 13 of the seats it had contested in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to accommodate the JD(U) in the 2019 elections. Now, it is the turn for the JD(U) to reciprocate the gesture,” said a senior BJP leader.
The JD(U) had contested 101 seats in 2015 and won 71 seats when it was part of the Grand Alliance as against 53 won by the BJP. Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) had won just two seats. If 2010 assembly polls are going to be the basis, the JD(U) had contested 141 seats and won 115 while the BJP had contested 102 and won 91 seats. The LJP was not part of the alliance then.
Broadly, both the BJP and the JD(U) have decided to accommodate the LJP and the HAM-S from their respective quota of seats. JD(U) sources said that party, in all likelihood, will settle with 110-120 seats, leaving remaining for the BJP which will have to accommodate the LJP.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar had recently said that any talks with Chirag Paswan on sharing seats will be handled by the BJP. “Anyone who is with BJP is also with me,” Nitish Kumar said, adding that the return of Jitan Ram Manjhi to the alliance was also overseen by him but only after taking the BJP in confidence.