Even as BJP president Amit Shah on Friday claimed there are no internal differences in the NDA in Bihar over seat-sharing, and along with JD(U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar announced that both parties will contest an equal number of seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the two smaller alliance partners, Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP and Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP, appear to be growing restive as the BJP is yet to announce the number of seats each party would contest.
After a meeting with Nitish Kumar, Shah said the Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party will get “respectable” number of seats to contest, and that each party has agreed to take a cut in its share to accommodate the new partner – JD(U).
“Numbers (of seats that each party will contest) will be announced in two or three days,” Shah, with Nitish by his side, told the media in Delhi.
Within hours, RLSP chief and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha created a stir with his “unscheduled meet” with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav at Arwal in Bihar.
Both leaders have been touring the same area. Tejashwi confirmed his meeting with Kushwaha at Arwal circuit house. Later in the evening, Kushwaha said, “Nothing should be read into such meetings. I stick to our goal of making Narendra Modi the Prime Minister PM again.”
An RJD leader, however, said the RLSP had been in constant touch with its top leadership.
The LJP has been treading cautiously on the issue. LJP leader and Lok Sabha MP from Jamui Chirag Paswan told reporters in Delhi, “The BJP has already talked of honourable accommodation. We are waiting to hear from them.”
Pashupati Kumar Paras, the LJP’s Bihar unit chief and a minister in the Nitish Kumar government, had earlier said that the party would not settle for anything less than seven seats it had contested in 2014.
In Delhi, and in Patna, sources said the BJP and JD(U) are likely to contest in 16 or 17 seats, with four to five seats for the LJP and two or three for Kushwaha’s RLSP.
Dismissing any rift in the NDA, RLSP spokesperson Jitendra Nath told The Indian Express, “Our leader’s meeting with Tejashwi is just a coincidence. It was not at all scheduled. We are very much part of NDA…. The BJP has not yet communicated to us about the (number of) seats it is offering but two-three is surely not an honourable number. We are still hoping for honourable accommodation the BJP has been talking about”.
An RJD leader, however, said RLSP had been in constant touch with its top leadership. “Tejashwi-ji had warmed up to Kushwaha’s idea of Kushwanshi rice and Yaduvanshis’ milk to make kheer. We hope Kushwaha comes to the Grand Alliance,” the RJD leader said.
This leader hinted that the RLSP, if it joins the RJD-Congress alliance, could be offered five seats, against the party’s demand for six to seven seats.
In Delhi, meanwhile, Shah said, “When a new alliance partner comes, there will be a cut in everyone’s share. There is a consensus that everyone has to go together.”
Reiterating that there is a consensus among the NDA partners, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said the other details will be finalised in discussions in the coming days.