PATNA/ NEW DELHI: The NDA ‘rebel’, LJP, found itself cornered on Tuesday by both JD(U) and BJP with the saffron party categorically saying that those who do not accept the leadership of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar for the assembly polls are not part of the coalition. It also cautioned the Chirag Paswan-led LJP against using PM Modi’s name for electioneering.
“We have made it clear that LJP is out of the alliance in Bihar and the four parties that are part of the alliance are BJP, JD(U), VIP and HAM,” BJP general secretary in-charge Bhupender Yadav told TOI.
BJP state chief Sanjay Jaiswal spoke equally strongly. “Nitishji is the leader of NDA in Bihar and BJP accepts his leadership in Bihar in totality. Only those will remain in NDA, who will accept the leadership of Nitishji,” Jaiswal said hours before the joint presser. The assertion came against the backdrop of a talk in some quarters about a clandestine BJP-LJP deal to peg JD(U) down.
“This should silence those who floated the conspiracy theory at the instance of RJD-Congress-Left combination,” said a senior BJP member who did not wish to be quoted. The “theory” got a fillip because of LJP chief Chirag Paswan’s statements that BJP and his party would form the next ruling coalition. He repeated the statement again on Tuesday. However, the party acknowledged LJP as an ally “at the Centre” and hinted at continuation of ailing LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan in the Union cabinet, a gesture seen as having been prompted by concern for an ailing ally who, as an influential Dalit face, has often been very helpful.
As per the seat-sharing formula, JD(U) will contest on 122 seats and BJP 121 out of a total of 243 seats. JD(U) is expected to leave 7 seats for former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM, while BJP is expected to accommodate Vikassheel Insaan Party( VIP) , a formation of extremely “backward” boatmen and fishermen, on close to 10 seats.
This translates into JD(U) contesting 4-5 more seats than BJP but the saffron party did not seem to be upset about it both because it has succeeded in narrowing the gap with the ‘Big Brother’ in the alliance and also as at least some of the VIP candidates have been known to be saffronites. In fact, it was Union home minister Amit Shah who brought VIP’s Mukesh Sahni to his side after he revolted against the RJD-led combine.
At the joint press conference of BJP and JD(U) in Patna to announce the seat-sharing arrangement of the two NDA constituents, Nitish rebutted Chirag’s accusation of a “raw deal” by recalling that JD(U) had, along with BJP, helped Ram Vilas Paswan get an RS berth.
“Ram Vilas Ji is unwell. We want him to recover. Did he reach Rajya Sabha (RS) without JD(U)’s help? How many seats do they have in Vidhan Sabha? Two. So, BJP-JD(U) gave him a ticket to RS. What do we have to do with what someone says?” Nitish said.
His deputy and senior state BJP leader Sushil Modi also addressed the issue – which had emerged a niggling worry for the JD(U) – of the possibility of LJP canvassing support by using PM Narendra Modi’s pictures. “Any party, which is not a part of NDA, but is using the Prime Minister’s photograph for electioneering, should not do so. If required, we will ask the Election Commission to take action against parties which use the PM’s name in their campaign or for their publicity without being a part of NDA,” he said.
BJP’s clarification came a day after Chirag stated that the next government in Bihar would be formed by BJP-LJP combine under BJP’s leadership. Chirag had announced on Sunday that his party will contest the Bihar election against JD(U) but support BJP. He also said LJP will field candidates on 143 seats, mostly against those contested by JD(U).
Bihar BJP chief Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, however, said on Tuesday that NDA will form the next government in Bihar with three-fourth majority.
Asked about Paswan being a minister in the NDA government at the Centre, Jaiswal said, “He is unwell at present and we all wish for his speedy recovery.”
Other BJP functionaries categorically said their alliance is with JD(U), not LJP. “Our alliance is with JD(U) under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. Anybody who does not accept his leadership cannot be part of NDA,” BJP’s state general secretary Devesh Kumar told TOI.
The decision to draw a clear line vis-a-vis LJP was prompted also by the recognition that ambiguity over ties with the the Dalit outfit could hurt BJP as well. “LJP has announced to field candidates on 143 seats. This means that apart from the 122 seats contested by JD(U), LJP will field 21 candidates on seats contested by BJP and there are no friendly fights in politics,” said a BJP functionary.