One clear message coming out of the NDA seat-sharing, announced on Monday, is that the BJP is keen to keep the “ambitious and vacillating” Jitan Ram Manjhi in control.
The BJP has kept 160 seats for itself which also means that it is making an attempt to control the aggressiveness of alliance partners, especially from Manjhi, in post-poll scenario. The BJP is wary of Manjhi in a situation when Manjhi party’s tally can add to form a government of Grand Alliance. Manjhi has got 20 seats to fight in the forthcoming polls.
Even the Manjhi camp leaders admit that a trust deficit has been the main problem for Manjhi ever since he defied Nitish Kumar. He had explored the Lalu option and joined the NDA only after the RJD chief cemented his alliance with Nitish. The meeting between the former CM’s key aide and Lalu recently had also given out disconcerting mixed signals. The BJP and Manjhi have become of a matter of mutual necessity: the BJP wants to fragment the dalit vote of Nitish in the company of Manjhi who knows that his only USP is being anti-Nitish.
By reining in Manjhi, BJP has achieved its first objective. By keeping Paswan in good humour by giving him 40 seats, BJP has given the veteran leader his due – it has given a clear message of the difference in its attitude to Manjhi and Paswan. This, however, has not settled the debate over the dalit leadership. Manjhi and Paswan will continue the mind games.
Aware of this, the BJP says it will avoid parading the two leaders in the same area.
The seat-sharing agreement in the NDA indicates that the BJP has prevailed upon its alliance partners, especially over new entrant – Manjhi.
However, the show has only begun now.