WITH ITS partners asserting themselves in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP reached out to pacify key ally Lok Janshakti Party led by Ram Vilas Paswan on the day former ally Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party officially crossed over to the Opposition’s grand alliance.
As Kushwaha joined the Congress-RJD-led “mahagathbandhan” at the AICC headquarters in the presence of Congress’s Ahmed Patel, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Yadav and Jitan Ram Manjhi, top leaders of the BJP held talks with Union minister Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan.
While Kushwaha’s move was on expected lines after his repeated complaints over not getting adequate number of seats for the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar, Chirag Paswan had expressed unease Tuesday over the delay in finalising the seat-sharing formula for the state.
On Thursday, BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Bhupender Yadav reached Paswan’s residence to meet the two LJP leaders. After 30 minutes, the three went together to BJP president Amit Shah’s residence where they were joined by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Earlier, Shah, Jaitley and Yadav had held a closed-door meeting at Jaitley’s chamber in Parliament.
BJP sources claimed that Paswan’s meeting with Amit Shah suggests the issue is likely to be resolved. However, the main Bihar ally of the BJP, the JD(U), attributed the unrest within the alliance to the absence of a “cohesive mechanism”.
“Unlike the NDA-I, there is no organisational structure in the current NDA, which can provide a forum for constituent parties to raise issues. Earlier, George Fernandes and Parkash Singh Badal used to be part of decision-making in the NDA. Nowadays, Badal and Nitish Kumar are not part of any decision-making,” JD(U) leader K C Tyagi told The Indian Express.
“The JD(U) hasn’t given a reason for the BJP to complain in Bihar where they are equal partners in government and decision-making. In Delhi, the JD(U) hasn’t even got a sentry, forget about mantri. So, discontent among allies is likely because of the absence of a proper forum. A cohesive mechanism is necessary for elections. However, issues like the JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) and public criticism of government policies must not appear in public,” the senior leader said.
Sources in the Congress, meanwhile, indicated that the doors of the grand alliance “are not shut for Paswan”. They said Kushwaha’s RLSP is likely to be given three to four seats.
“Paswan seems to be indulging in pressure tactics, but he will face some problems as our assessment is that Dalits are upset in Bihar. So it is beneficial for him to switch sides. But there is an ego problem between Tejashwi (Yadav) and Chirag (Paswan). There is also a bigger, and older, ego tussle between Ram Vilas and (JDU chief) Nitish Kumar,” a senior Congress leader told The Indian Express.
Welcoming Kushwaha to the alliance, Tejashwi told reporters: “Talks are on to forge a grand alliance at the national level… So I think everyone should sacrifice their ego as much as possible in the interest of the nation and to save the Constitution and the country, and we are doing that.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar, Shaktisinh Gohil, said: “This is an alliance of hearts and ideologies. There is no problem with regard to seat-sharing. We will decide on who will contest in which seat on the basis of winnability.” Sources said the alliance partners will meet in the first week of January to take stock.
Kushwaha reiterated the essence of his resignation letter to the Prime Minister and said that “people tried to weaken me and my party…bring down the number of seats… Then, Nitish Kumar joined… He wanted to finish me and the forces in Delhi joined him”.
Sources said Nitish Kumar would reach Delhi Friday. “He is coming to attend a marriage ceremony on Saturday. So far, no political meeting with BJP leaders has been scheduled,” said sources.