Patna: Seat-sharing arrangement among NDA partners in Bihar ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections could be a challenge for the BJP as two of its prominent allies Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) have been giving signals of discontent.
The meal diplomacy between BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on July 12 had virtually put to rest the prospects of JD (U) returning to the grand secular alliance with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
But the show of bonhomie between the JD (U) and the BJP didn’t go down well with the RLSP which wanted the BJP to hold discussions with other partners so that preparations for 2019 general elections could begin early.
Nitish Kumar’s return to the NDA fold in July 2017 with the claim of being the “big brother” in Bihar has created problems for other alliance partners.
In 2004 and 2009 elections, the JD (U) was in the position of “big brother” and the BJP was its junior partner in Bihar.
Of the 40 LS seats, the JD(U) had contested 24 seats and the BJP 16 in 2004. In 2009, the JD(U) contested on 25 leaving 15 seats for the BJP. But the situation changed after 2014 as JD(U) after breaking away from the BJP contested alone and won just two seats. The BJP along with NDA partners – LJP and RLSP – had bagged 31 out of 40 seats in Bihar. The BJP won 22, LJP six and RLSP three seats.
Sources claim that in the current scenario, the BJP is trying hard to put an end to speculation regarding internal conflict among NDA constituents over seat-sharing. However, a section in the BJP also feels that leaving a smaller share of seats for the LJP and the RLSP may create trouble for the NDA in the state.
The Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP recently indicated that the party is not willing to accept Bihar chief minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar as the face of NDA in Bihar.
RLSP leaders have also been demanding the projection of Mr Kushwaha as the chief ministerial face of the NDA in the 2020 Assembly elections.
Bihar deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi took to Twitter and said, “The BJP is not agreeable to any personal opinion of some NDA leaders on replacing Nitish Kumar in 2020.”
RLSP insiders are of the opinion that the party’s base has increased over the past four years and Mr Kushwaha should replace Nitish Kumar as the NDA’s face in Bihar.
RLSP vice-president and spokesperson Jitendra Nath told this newspaper, “The political scenario in the state has changed because our support base has increased. Upendra Kushwaha is the only OBC leader in Bihar with the clean and strong image. We urge the BJP to accept the changed scenario and declare Mr Kushwaha as the face of NDA in Bihar.”
According to political analysts, Mr Kushwaha represents an OBC community which is the largest after the Yadavs. His community along with Koeri accounts for about 10 per cent of the state’s population and have a voter base in around 20-25 Assembly seats.
“Other OBC groups have also started distancing themselves from Nitish Kumar. Besides Mr Kushwaha’s community, other groups like Kurmi and Dhanuks, which dominates with about 20 per cent vote share in Bihar, have started showing signs of discontent. People are not happy and it’s time for the BJP to decide now,” said RLSP leader Jitendra Nath.
The suggestion made by the RLSP that chief minister Nitish Kumar should step down and make way for Mr Kushwaha as a new face chief ministerial candidate was, however, turned down by the state unit of the BJP last week, reposing faith in the chief minister’s ability to attract voters.
Courtesy: The Asian Age