With Jitan Ram Manjhi disagreeing with the number of seats offered by the BJP, the NDA could not finalise its seat-sharing deal for the October-November Bihar polls. Although Amit Shah-led BJP leadership has been holding marathon discussions and negotiations with its allies, no announcement has been made so far.
Party sources said while two key allies — Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP — have agreed to the formula suggested by the BJP, the recently-added alliance partner Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha continues to be unhappy with the deal. However, a BJP leader involved in the negotiations told The Sunday Express that an announcement would be made on Sunday.
Sources said the BJP has agreed to give 41 seats to LJP, 25 to Kushwaha and 13 to Manjhi. The former Bihar CM, who is expected to consolidate the Mahadalit vote for the NDA, has demanded more seats.
BJP leaders, however, said that Manjhi had earlier demanded 13 seats for his party as five of the 18 MLAs, who had left the JD(U) along with him, would be contesting on BJP symbol. But Manjhi, who has been in a clash with Paswan for the supremacy over the 18 per cent Dalit votes in the state, now wants more seats, especially as the LJP is offered 40 plus. Manjhi has told BJP leadership that he wants at least 20 seats, said a source.
Even though the BJP leadership is not worried about Manjhi’s rebellion as it thinks his party does not have many options before it but to be in the NDA, the party leadership does not want an adverse campaign from Manjhi. Besides, Manjhi’s campaign against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — that he ditched the Mahadalits in the state by removing Manjhi from the chief ministerial post — was prominently used by the BJP against the JD(U) leader.
BJP’s reluctance to give away more seats to its allies is based on its keenness in contesting as many seats to ensure the comfortable majority of 122 on its own while reducing its reliance on its allies.
Although Kushwaha, like Paswan, is part of its alliance at the Centre, BJP leaders pointed out that he had made “attempts” to strike a deal with the Congress as well as the JD(U) for the state polls. However, Kushwaha earlier this week made a public announcement that his party would agree with the BJP leadership’s offer on seat-sharing as NDA has to fight the election united.