The deal the BJP has given in Bihar has upset not only allies who have got fewer seats than they wanted but also sitting BJP MLAs who have been denied tickets. Party sources said the BJP is likely to deny 10 to 20 per cent of its sitting MLAs to keep the candidates’ list balanced, gender-sensitive and youthful.
In its first list of 43 candidates, the BJP has dropped five sitting MLAs. Two of these five, Aman Kumar Paswan from Pirpainti and Ajay Mandal from Nathnagar, have already rebelled. They met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the BJP’s arch-rival, apparently seeking JD(U) tickets.
Among the BJP’s allies, LJP MP Rama Kishore Singh quit his party posts, apparently because he was sidelined from the seat-sharing talks. A key leader from Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM(S), Devendra Yadav, has already quit for “the surrender in the seat-sharing”. The BJP has kept 160 seats and given the LJP 40 seats, the RLSP 23 and HAM 20.
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Sources said the BJP will complete the process of ticket distribution by September 19. A BJP leader reacted to the disgruntlement saying, “There could be more such instances as there will be many disappointed people. The BJP is keen to distribute tickets to sure winners and also wants to give representation to youth and women, which would be in line with our strategy to address aspirational politics.”
The BJP has 91 sitting legislators. Sources added that the party is not likely to deny tickets to any prominent leaders, although there were some disputes on one or two seats.
The LJP MP who quit, Rama Kishore Singh from Vaishali, was the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, one of the posts he has relinquished. Singh has reportedly played down suggestions that he will join hands with Lalu Prasad. An LJP leader said, “Resigning his party positions is just a symbolic protest. He may be trying to bargain with the party. We are trying to placate him but such things do happen in any party during the seat-sharing process.”
LJP sources said they were not ready to give Jamui and Chakai to HAM(S), which wants those seats because they are represented by JD(U) rebels in the Manjhi camp, Ajay Pratap Singh and Sumit Kumar Singh, sons of former minister Narendra Singh. “It is quite possible there will be a friendly fight in these seats with the LJP too planning to field candidates. We are claiming the seats because Jamui is represented by Chirag Paswan in the Lok Sabha,” said an LJP source.
From the HAM(S) side, a leader said they had expected Navinagar, Parbatta and Dinara but the BJP did not concede those. “But we are getting the contentious seats of Jamui and Chakai, which are ours,” said the leader.
The BJP leadership continued negotiations with leaders of the RLSP, which has expressed its displeasure at the BJP’s “unilateral” decision announcing 43 tickets while the talks were still on. LJP leaders, who said they were shocked at the announced deal because the considerations followed differed from ally to ally, have approached BJP chief Amit Shah for “rearrangements”.
In Patna, LJP and RLSP leaders said they might announce their seats unilaterally like the BJP did. “Some misgivings do take place in alliances but all is well. Our common aim is to defeat the grand alliance,” said RLSP MP Arun Kumar. RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha had said Tuesday that the BJP should have a “big heart”.
BJP sources, however, said the party is unlikely to concede any seats from its share as it wants to emerge the single largest party. The BJP calculates that if Narendra Modi’s campaign from the development plank is able to overshadow the traditional caste-based politics of the state, the NDA can emerge a clear winner and the BJP will then be the largest of the parties.
Opinion polls have, however, so far projected the grand alliance of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress as winning more seats than the NDA. In the event of a hung assembly, the BJP wants to ensure that it still emerges the single largest party, a scenario in which it can demand that the governor invite it first to form the government. As Lalu Prasad’ s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) are fighting only 100 seats each, the BJP reckons, it has a brighter chance than either of them of winning the highest number of seats.