Two days ago it looked like that the BJP leadership in Bihar had amicably settled seat sharing negotiations with three of its allies – Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP, Upendra Kushwaha of RLSP and Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM – but it is now proving to be a bit of a bumpy ride.
The alliance partners are now fighting over who would get what seats. This process is getting murkier as it is mired with ego clashes of the leaders who are constantly probing at other’s share rather than looking at their own kitty. Also, both Paswan and Kushwaha are excessively keen, as sources suggested, that the BJP should distribute seats to their candidates in their areas, parliamentary constituencies represented by their party leaders, after consulting them.
LJP and RLSP chiefs have reservation over the names of a few candidates which BJP or HAM may field but the BJP does not find the condition acceptable. Upendra Kushwaha has fielded his spokesman Fajal Imam Mallik to give some lessons on coalition dharma to the BJP.
On Tuesday, Chirag Paswan of LJP expressed “surprise” and “shock” over the manner in which seat sharing arrangement was announced by the BJP chief Amit Shah – the announcement of seats were not exactly in consonance with the understanding they earlier had. BJP has for long, since the time Atal Bihari Vajpayee assumed power in 1997, credited itself for successfully formulating a coalition dharma and following it for six years at the Centre and in the states while being in Opposition.
Paswan is done sulking after several rounds of talks with Amit Shah, Ananth Kumar and Dharmendra Pradhan and giving vent to his feelings. Kushwaha, on the other hand, is still sulking. His spokesman Mallik says, “The BJP has not adhered to coalition dharma. The fact that we are the alliance partners for Bihar elections means that the BJP needs us as much as we need the BJP. Now, we have landed in a situation when even as the talks on identification of seats for alliance partners is going on they (BJP) have declared a number of seats for the first and second phase of elections. That’s not fair in a coalition.”
Today Kushwaha’s party MP Arun Kumar had talks with BJP election-in-charge for Bihar, Union Minister Ananth Kumar. But the issue has not yet been fully resolved. An RLSP leader said, “We have decided not to engage with Bihar BJP leaders. Whatever further negotiations have to happen between us and the BJP will have to take place with BJP’s central leadership only.”
The BJP on its part has decided not to walk extra mile to make a conciliatory remark. “We have been very fair in seat sharing talks and have tried to accommodate all of their concerns. We have addressed to all such issues. That’s it. Now is the time to move on and campaign vigorously and all concerned should understand that.”
The problem, as sources from both sides suggested, was the announcement of few seats in Kushwaha’s parliamentary constituency Karakat, including Nokha assembly seat to its leader Rameshwar Chaurasia. A RLSP leader said, “Our opposition is not to Chaurasia but the BJP, who has fielded some turncoats from JD(U) and other parties, in areas of our influence without bothering to consult us.
Interestingly, in the outgoing assembly none of the BJP’s partners had an MLA who was elected on same party’s ticket. The BJP had won 92 seats out of 101 seats it had contested in alliance with JD(U) in 2010 assembly elections. Paswan’s LJP had won three seats but soon after the elections they all joined Nitish Kumar’s bandwagon.
Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi were both part of JD(U). Kushwaha formed his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party in 2013 and Manjhi formed his Hindustani Awam Morcha in 2014. Manjhi, however, had managed to engineer split in the JD(U) when he was forced to exit from the post of chief minister and used certain legal provisions to ensure 15 MLAs on his side don’t face disqualification.
NDA partners are proving to be the biggest aspirational class in Bihar.