New Delhi: Ending months of uncertainty over seat-sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have reached a respectable formula to split the 40 Lok Sabha seats among the alliance partners.
Senior JD(U) leaders said that as part of the arrangement, the BJP and the JD(U) will contest 16 seats each, while Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is likely to get four seats, and Union minister Upendra Khushwaha could get two seats. The remaining two will be divided between Arun Kumar and Pappu Yadav. However, an official statement was not issued by either the JD(U) or the BJP.
“The top leadership of the party has conveyed to us that JD(U) and BJP are likely to get 16 seats each. It is a respectable formula between the two parties. It is important that parties respect each other in an alliance. Nitish Kumar is an important member of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and the seniormost leader of NDA in Bihar. His position should be reflected in the seat-sharing formula,” said a senior JD(U) leader based in Patna.
The development comes amid poll strategist Prashant Kishor joining the JD(U) on Sunday, according to senior party leaders. Kishor was present at the party’s state executive meeting in Patna where he was seated next to Kumar. While officially there is no clarity on his role, a JD(U) leader said that Kishor will play a key role in coordinating between the two key alliance partners and striking seat-sharing. “Excited to start my new journey from Bihar!,” Kishor tweeted earlier in the day.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, JD(U) had contested the polls along with Communist Party of India (CPI). Kumar’s party won only two out of the 38 seats it had contested and lost deposits in 23 seats. The BJP, on the other hand, had won 22 out of the 40 seats in Bihar, with the NDA picking up 31 seats, which included LJP’s six and three of Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).
The seat-sharing formula is critical as it indicates that Nitish Kumar continues to be the decision maker for NDA in Bihar. A section of the BJP in Bihar was keen to position the party as the senior partner.
The decision of the BJP to agree to fewer number of seats indicates that the ruling party is keen to keep its flock together following the consolidation of parties within opposition ranks.
“Most alliance partners, including the JD(U), LJSP and RLSP, wanted the BJP to contest fewer number of seats to accommodate regional partners in Bihar. NDA partners have ensured that the BJP leadership understands the importance of its alliance partners in the state,” said the JD(U) leader.
A second JD(U) leader added that the talks with other alliance partners will be held to iron out the differences, if any, and finalize the seat-sharing formula.
Members of the JD(U) argue that while the seat-sharing formula has been reached between the BJP and JDU, LJP and RLSP have yet not revealed their cards. Opposition parties, especially Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), is trying to get support of Khushwaha for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Senior leaders of both the LJP and RLSP said that no official communication has been made to either party. Leaders of the two alliance partners, particularly the RLSP, added that it would be “difficult” to fight on a reduced number of seats, which they had won in the previous general elections.
“Nothing has been conveyed to us. But we are demanding that our seat-sharing from last time be increased. We have already hit the ground and so we will not settle for anything lesser than 2014. We will decide on our future course of action after a formal announcement is made,” a senior RLSP leader said, requesting anonymity.