A day before Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar’s much-discussed meeting with BJP president Amit Shah, top sources in the JD(U) on Wednesday indicated that the party is expecting parity on seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha elections, and will be comfortable with the formula adopted with the RJD for the Vidhan Sabha polls in 2015, when the JD(U) was part of the Grand Alliance.
A top JD(U) leader told The Indian Express that the party is also not looking at playing the “elder brother” to the BJP in the next General Election, and could settle with the “formula of equity, parity and mutual respect” between the alliance partners.
In 2014, the BJP won 22 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar amid what was seen as a Narendra Modi “wave” – the JD(U) won only two.
In 2009, when JD(U) was in the NDA, it had contested 25 seats and won 20; the BJP had won 11 of 15 seats it contested.
A senior JD(U) leader said on Wednesday, “The chief minister has already played down talks about the JD(U) playing elder brother and said that there is no basis to the talks on seat-sharing between the two parties. One reason we were uncomfortable with the RJD was because Lalu Prasad (RJD chief) and his son Tejashwi Yadav (then the deputy CM) would often remind us that we were a junior partner in the Grand Alliance. Lalu-ji would often often use expressions such as “jao, tilak laga diya, raaj karo (we have applied tilak, go and rule), and Tejashwi would say, “CM toh chacha hi rahenge (uncle Nitish will remain CM).”
The JD(U) leader said such expressions had hurt not only Nitish but also demoralised the party cadre, and that they do not want to repeat that with the BJP.
Another senior party leader, who is seen as close to the Bihar CM, said, “We do not know what the BJP will offer us (in terms of seats for Lok Sabha polls), but they have been very graceful (thus far) and not reacted even once. We know the BJP values us and will offer a number we can agree on happily. It is not about what the BJP did in 2014 and how we fared then; it is about how we can do well together in 2019.”
The leader said although there has been no such discussion, “I think applying the Grand Alliance formula can work in the NDA as well — we will return as the senior partner in 2020 Assembly polls.”
Sources in JD(U) party office in Patna said that for 2019, they are eying the three seats currently with the LJP, an NDA partner – Khagaria, Samastipur and Munger – besides Darbhanga, Jhanjharpur, Valmiki Nagar, Begusarai and Supaul. “The BJP has to judge the winnability factor afresh based on caste configurations. There has surely been some dents in our Mahadalit vote base, especially in Mushahar votes, but the NDA’s EBC (extremely backward classes) and Dalit vote-bank is intact,” the party leader said.
A senior BJP leader said the seat-sharing formula is a decision that lies with party chief Shah, and the state leadership has not received any feelers from the central leadership on this.