NEW DELHI: NDA allies in Bihar have signalled to the BJP that the Janata Dal (United) was the senior partner in the alliance, with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approaching fast. JD(U) president and Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, has kept allies guessing his every move.
The state BJP leaders sought to play down the signs of strain in the alliance by striking a conciliatory note but insists that the 2014 Lok Sabha verdict had decided the face of the alliance to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi's.
Deputy CM and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said, on Monday, that Nitish was the ruling alliance’s leader in the state, and that the NDA would seek votes in his and PM Modi's names.
However, BJP leaders feel that having quit the NDA in 2013 and re-joined in 2017, Nitish has exhausted his bargaining options. “The JD(U) 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 as part of the RJD and Congress alliance. Both the elections proved 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 comfortable seat adjustments in the alliance. 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.
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