BJP leaders from Bihar have conveyed to the party’s central leadership that they are ready to fight the 2019 general elections without ally Janata Dal United of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
In a recent meeting with party president Amit Shah, the state BJP leaders told him that it was the JDU that had approached the BJP for support when Kumar decided to leave the Grand Alliance, which also comprised the RJD and the Congress, and, hence, the BJP should not bend too much to keep the JDS in good humour.
“We had contested 29 seats in 2014, LJP in seven and RLSP on four seats and the two regional parties have been with us for long. We cannot ignore them to please the JDU. The JDU’s insistence that it should be given 20-25 seats in next year’s general elections cannot be accommodated. We have to take care of the interests of our sitting MPs, too. If the JDU does not arrive on a common ground, we are ready to contest the elections without it. Our senior leaders should keep in mind that the JDU won only two seats although it contested all 40 seats in 2014 when ‘Nitish’s charm’ was at its peak,” a senior Patna based BJP functionary said. According to him, a large section of the state BJP leaders were of the view that it was the JDU that needed the BJP, not the other way round.
According to him, the BJP should contest on at least half of the total number of seats (20 of 40 seats), leaving the rest 20 to be divided amongst the JDU, LJP and RSLP.
This stance was developed after senior state BJP leaders repeatedly said that they are not going to leave the 22 Lok Sabha seats the BJP had won in 2014.
Similarly, the JDU too has said that it should be given 20-25 seats in the state which sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha. Ram Vilas Paswan led LJP has also made it clear that it will not allow other parties (read JDU) to eat into its six seats (it had contested on seven seats in 2014). The other constituent of the NDA in the state, the RLSP, which presently has three MPs, is also in no mood to settle for a paltry share. RLSP president and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha skipped the NDA get-together dinner held in Patna on Thursday, with sources close to him saying that if the party’s interests are ignored then they would have no choice but to leave the alliance. Madhaw Anand, RLSP national general secretary and national spokesperson, said that the NDA had lost almost all the byelections that were held recently because of the lack of coordination between the NDA partners. He said that the party was not averse to joining a coalition led by anti-BJP parties if its concerns are not addressed.
“There is no coordination among the NDA members. We should have had a meeting of top leaders of all alliance partners to decide on the strategy to contest the Lok Sabha and the Bihar Assembly elections. But without having any meeting one of the alliance partners announces that the CM will be from his party. This is not fair. We are not averse to joining the Congress (led front). Why cannot we join them? Either we will be with the Congress or with the BJP. Everyone knows there is no future for a Third Front. However, having said that, we have a lot of faith in both Amit Shah and Narendra Modi that they will look into these issues as soon as possible so that there is a proper coordination and strategy on how to contest the elections,” he said.
A section of BJP’s political managers feels that they cannot alienate either the LJP or the RLSP as they represent almost 16% Scheduled Caste population of Bihar.
The JDU leaders said that there was no danger to the alliance. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, senior JDU leader and party MLC Neeraj Kumar, who is seen as the voice of Nitish Kumar, said that the alliance was intact and it would contest the 2019 elections as one bloc. “We had left the Mahagathbandhan because of corruption. We believe that the fight for secularism and social justice cannot be fought from a corrupt plank. Upendra Kushwaha has been the leader of opposition in the past during which he fought against Lalu Yadav and this is something that is either knowingly omitted during the present discourse or it is genuinely not known to many people. He has already clarified that he could not attend the NDA meet because of personal reasons and he had deputed his party colleagues to represent him. Let the right time come, the decision on who will contest on how many seats will be made,” he said.
Sources in the JDU, however, added that that the party was looking at the developments with an open mind but there were certain issues on which it was not open to compromise.