With less than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the JD(U) has already begun posturing for a bigger share of seats in Bihar on the grounds that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the face of NDA in the state. JD(U) general secretary Pawan Verma, who attended the core committee meeting on Sunday evening, said the party had always been the senior partner and was the largest constituent of the coalition with the BJP.
“Between coalition partners, as elections approach, there will be discussions on seat adjustments. In the case of Bihar, JD(U), in our view, has always been the senior partner. Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA in Bihar, which is why he is the chief minister,” Verma said.
Trying to play the pacifier, Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi rubbished reports that there was a rift between BJP and JD(U) but stopped short of saying whether Nitish would be made the face of NDA in Bihar in 2019. The deputy CM said while PM Modi was the face of the nation, Nitish was the face of Bihar. “The PM of the country is Narendra Modi, but the CM of Bihar is Nitish Kumar. People will vote in Bihar on the basis of the name of Modi and work done by Nitish. There is no opposition from JD(U),” he said.
Smarting under the bypoll loss to its one-time ally RJD in Jokihat, the JD(U)’s core committee meeting was chaired by Kumar and attended by national general secretaries and poll strategist Prashant Kishor. The meeting comes just days before talks between NDA constituents in Bihar on June 7. Verma made no bones of the fact that seat-sharing will be one of the issues that will hog the limelight during the meeting with NDA leaders.
The JD(U) leader expressed hope that the BJP would deal with the matter keeping in mind the ground realities. “We have not had formal talks, our expectation is that the BJP which is the largest party in NDA will deal with its ally in a manner of mutual respect and understanding of certain factors verifiable on the ground,” he said.
There has been speculation in political circles that the JD(U), which has only two Lok Sabha members, might press for a seat-sharing arrangement in accordance with its strength in the Bihar assembly, where it has about 70 MLAs against 50 of the BJP. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had bagged 22 out of the 40 seats.
Insisting there was no dispute between the JD(U) and BJP, Sushil Modi said seat-sharing talks would be thrashed out during the June 7 meeting. “Jab dil mil gaye (When hearts have connected), seats are no big deal. Who will contest how many seats in elections, all this will be decided after we sit together for our meeting,” Modi said.
Last year, Nitish Kumar walked out of the grand alliance over corruption allegations against Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family and revived the partnership with the BJP that he had ended in 2013 over Narendra Modi’s elevation as prime ministerial candidate. In bypolls since then, the JD(U) has fared poorly and has lost Araria, Jehanabad, and Jokihat.