Fearing bickering among its allies could damage the NDA’s image and prospects in Bihar, the BJP’s allies have sent out signals that everything is fine — reportedly on the insistence of the BJP.
Part of the exercise was a letter from key ally RLSP’s Upendra Kushwaha to Amit Shah, authorising the BJP to take a “fair decision on the basis of ground realities” on the sharing of seats. And he went public about it.
“We have written to Amit Shah that the BJP should decide the seat shares,” he told reporters. “We believe the BJP will do justice to all parties. We will accept its decision.”
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who had publicly clashed with ally Ram Vilas Paswan over who is the bigger Dalit leader, too reposed faith in the BJP. “We will accept whatever decision Narendra Modi and Amit Shah take,” PTI quoted him as saying Thursday.
The BJP leadership reportedly asked Manjhi to make a public announcement dismissing reports of trouble among allies. On Wednesday, Manjhi came out of a meeting with Amit Shah and dismissed his attack on Paswan as “differences between brothers”.
Meetings between the BJP and NDA allies had gone on until past midnight Wednesday. On Thursday, Ananth Kumar, who is heading the BJP’s election effort in Bihar, met Kushwaha, Manjhi and Paswan separately.
Kushwaha, who was urged by Prime Minister Modi to put up a united fight in Bihar, wrote to Shah expressing his party’s faith in Modi and Shah and reiterating that the coalition’s priority will “only be the development of Bihar”. Party sources said Kushwaha’s letter was, in fact, part of a BJP exercise to clear the air on the “differences” in the NDA.
Kushwaha, who had been demanding around 70 seats, is said to have scaled down his demand but was not at all happy with the BJP’s formula of six assembly seats to one Lok Sabha seat. The BJP has offered 20 seats to Kushwaha’s the RLSP, 35-40 seats to Paswan’s LJP and 10-15 seats to Manjhi’s HAM. The LJP has six seats in the Lok Sabha while the RLSP has three.
The letter by Kushwaha, Minister of State for HRD, said his party believes the people of Bihar would throw away the current coalition in the state forever. “Our priority will be the rebuilding of Bihar and the state’s development…”, it reads.
Kushwaha said his party has decided unanimously that the priority will only be development of Bihar. “To ensure to achieve this goal, seat distribution doesn’t become a hurdle, we have decided that the BJP-led by Prime Minister Modi will have the final decision regarding the seat sharing… We completely trust the leadership of Modi and Amit Shah. We trust, considering the ground realities of Bihar, all four parties in the NDA will be given a fair participation,” said the letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express.
BJP leaders admitted, however, that they have to address Kushwaha’s stand that his party needs more seats. At the same time, the BJP does not want Kushwaha to win too many seats and consequently too much bargaining power.
Ananth Kumar said a decision on seats takes time. “It takes time when talks take place; a proper procedure has to be followed,” he said of the delay in the decision.
Kumar also praised Kushwaha and said his letter has strengthened the NDA. “We are in touch with all our allies — the RLSP, the LJP and the HAM. The seat-sharing formula will be very respectable. All four parties will contest the elections together and we will win in Bihar,” he said.