Chirag Paswan announced that his party, the LJP, is “shocked” with how the BJP has divided up seats for the election that begins next month in Bihar.
“Our cadres expressed their surprise, we were not given what we had been told,” said Mr Paswan, whose father, Ram Vilas Paswan, is a union minister. The 32-year-old, a former actor, said the alliance “remains united”, and his party is not upset about the seats given to another partner Jitan Ram Manjhi.
However, Mr Paswan said that an agreed-upon formula to allocate seats had been altered to give Mr Manjhi more seats than mathematically due. Late last night, to assuage Mr Paswan, BJP chief Amit Shah met him with the promise that if the alliance comes to power, the LJP will be well-represented in the government.
The BJP has traditionally been supported by upper caste voters in Bihar. For this election, where it hopes to displace Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister, it has collaborated with Mr Paswan and Mr Manjhi who are hefty Dalit leaders with competing claims of popularity. Mr Manjhi was yesterday assigned 20 seats after he rejected a smaller portion. Mr Paswan was given 40. In earlier negotiations, Mr Manjhi had said that Mr Paswan is being over-compensated because he did not win a single seat in the last Bihar election.
The BJP has kept 160 seats for itself, while allocating 23 to Upendra Kushwaha, a leader of the Koeri backward caste.
Mr Manjhi, belonging to the most backward caste of Dalits or Mahadalits, was a leader of Mr Kumar’s party and was made Chief Minister after Mr Kumar took responsibility for his party’s disastrous result of the parliamentary elections in Bihar. Mr Manjhi was expelled for refusing to make way for Mr Kumar’s return to office in March and then founded his own party.