The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance got a shot in the arm Thursday as Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party returned to the grouping after more than a decade, becoming the BJP’s first new ally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Under the deal between the two parties, the LJP has got seven seats to contest in Bihar in the general elections.
The decision came at the end of a week-long political drama that saw the Congress high command holding hectic, last-minute parleys with Paswan to stop him from joining the NDA.
The former union minister made the announcement with BJP president Rajnath Singh by his side at Singh’s residence and pledged his support to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Paswan’s son Chirag and other LJP leaders were also present.
Paswan had quit as minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government in protest against the 2002 Gujarat riots. On Wednesday, he ended his 10-year-old partnership with Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal with much bitterness.
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“As far as Modiji is concerned, LJP is now a part of NDA and NDA has already declared Modi as its PM candidate,” Paswan said. “The next government will be an NDA government.”
Modi, it is learnt, spoke to Paswan over the phone Thursday evening and congratulated him on his return to the NDA. Paswan will share the stage with Modi at the BJP rally in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur on March 3. The BJP is projecting its alliance with the LJP and Koeri community leader Upendra Kushawaha’s RLSP as the “new NDA in Bihar”.
With LJP members and senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy by his side, Rajnath Singh said Paswan would meet BJP patriarch L K Advani and Modi in the next few days.
“I have complete faith that this alliance between the BJP and the LJP will benefit NDA not only in Bihar but also in other states in the country,” Singh told reporters. It is learnt that Paswan has been asked to campaign for the NDA outside Bihar as well.
In the final seat-sharing arrangement, the LJP will field candidates from Hajipur, Samastipur, Jamui, Munger, Vaishali, Nalanda and Khagaria. While Paswan has been an MP from Hajipur but lost in 2009, his son Chirag will contest from Jamui, sources said. Vaishali will also go to a candidate from Paswan’s family.
Paswan said he had already been a part of NDA and the kind of work done by NDA for the poor and backward classes had not been done in the last few years.
He also said Modi himself had been a victim of untouchability and had been ridiculed for being a tea-seller.
Modi, who landed in Delhi Thursday, held talks with Rajnath Singh, after which senior leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain called on Paswan at his residence.
Soon after, Singh and his predecessor Nitin Gadkari went and briefed Advani about the development for his concurrence as he is the NDA’s working chairman.
While it was a new NDA for Bihar, the BJP president emphasised that the alliance with Paswan and Ramdas Athawale in Maharashtra, along with the induction of Dalit leader Udit Raj into the party, is a proactive attempt to woo the community.