The BJP’s wish appears to have been granted, in ways more than one. The RJD, that contested 101 seats in the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan in the 2015 Assembly polls and won 80, is fighting on 144 constituencies in the coming election. Not only that, the RJD, the strongest of the Grand Alliance parties, is fighting on most of its seats against the JD(U).
On as many as 77 of its seats, RJD candidates are up against the Nitish-led JD(U), which had bargained hard to ensure it got more constituencies (115) than the BJP (110) in the NDA seat-sharing. In other words, in just about 30% of its seats (38 in all), the JD(U) can expect an easier fight.
In contrast, the RJD candidates are up against the BJP on 51 of its 110 seats, leaving the latter with prospects of an easier win on the remaining 59. Five RJD nominees are up against former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), and 11 will take on the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP).
The RJD says the social realities on the ground dictated its seat choices, and that it is a mere coincidence that the BJP might end up being the gainer — both in its bid to emerge as the dominant party in the NDA, and even as the single-largest party post-polls.
An RJD leader says, “Tejashwi Yadav is the CM candidate of the Grand Alliance and has taken on the incumbent CM. Plus, each seat has its social arithmetic. There would be a keen contest this time, with victory margins 2,000 to 5,000 on several seats.”
With LJP chief Chirag Paswan openly supporting BJP candidates and taking on Nitish, it could further dent the JD(U)’s prospects. Nitish has expressed his displeasure over several BJP leaders who were denied seats contesting on LJP tickets. One of them, Rajendra Singh, who is contesting from Dinara, enjoys the backing of BJP cadre. “They may be doing so on their own. I have not lured anyone,” Singh says.
The BJP has been trying to assuage Nitish, assuring that he will remain CM irrespective of the number of seats the parties win. It has also been criticising Paswan for latching on to it, accusing him of trying to create confusion.
JD(U) national spokesperson KC Tyagi says they are not worried about the RJD game plan. “The fact that it is treating us as its main opponent shows we are moving towards a presidential form of government in the state as well. People have to decide if they want Nitish Kumar or not. The rest is irrelevant.”
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