Four months before scheduled Assembly elections in Bihar, two of the three partners in the ruling NDA, JD(U) and LJP, have started squabbling, leaving the third partner, BJP, to do a difficult balancing act. As the partners look to begin seat-sharing talks, the JD(U) has indicated that it is unwilling to share any of the 12 seats in the Bihar Legislative Council under the nomination quota, which is likely to be filled very soon.
There are reasons why the JD(U) has been of late upset with the LJP.
Beginning from the time of his “Bihar first, Bihari first” yatra, which had to be wound up before the lockdown, LJP president Chirag Paswan has been repeatedly attacking the law and order situation under Nitish Kumar’s government.
On July 1, the LJP removed its Munger president Raghvendra Bharati for saying that the “NDA alliance is intact”. The party made it clear that “taking the final call on such matters is the prerogative of party president Chirag Paswan”.
Provocation has come from Chirag’s father, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, as well. The senior Paswan annoyed Nitish by saying that the Bihar government had not fully procured PDS grains from the Centre.
Chirag’s questioning of law and order under Nitish has irked the chief minister who has been trying to frame his re-election campaign in terms of “vikaswad versus Laluvad”, “15 years of NDA versus 15 years of RJD” and “LED versus lantern”.
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The JD(U) has been suggesting that Chirag is getting too big for his boots, and that several LJP leaders do not agree with him. It wants to use the nominations to the Upper House to send a political message to Chirag. The LJP does not have any representation in the Nitish government after Pashupati Kumar Paras became MP from Hajipur.
It has reportedly been indicated to the BJP that it can get an equal share of MLC seats, but only if it does not concede any from its quota to the LJP. And this is what has put the BJP in a bind.
While the JD(U) would like to suffocate the LJP in the NDA, the BJP would want to keep open the option of having the LJP play a role in the seat-sharing negotiations. The larger the number of seats that the LJP gets to contest, the more the JD(U) will fall short of the 141 it contested in the 2010 Assembly elections when the Paswans were not with the NDA.
The situation is different now – the LJP won all six Lok Sabha seats it contested last year, and it could ask for more than 35 seats in the Assembly elections. The JD(U) on the other hand, would like to contest as many seats as possible to give itself the best chance of coming close to the simple majority number of 122 on its own. In the event of a rift with the BJP, Nitish would like to keep the number of MLAs required to continue staying afloat down to 30-35.
The BJP is aware of this – and is not keen to either grab MLC seats by abandoning the LJP or upset the JD(U). It has been walking the tightrope as Chirag Paswan reiterates that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is his leader who has given 14 lakh new ration cards to Biharis, and the party’s founder Ram Vilas Paswan tweets his gratitude and admiration for Modi.
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