‘The formal announcement of the same will be done anytime soon’.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and Janata Dal United (JDU) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are believed to have worked out a seat-sharing arithmetic for the 2019 general elections.
Senior leaders in the party told The Sunday Guardian off-the-record that both parties will contest 17 seats each of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, setting aside the remaining six seats for Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP.)
As per these sources, the BJP has decided not to accommodate the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, an NDA ally with three seats currently, as the party’s chief Upendra Kushwaha has reportedly entered into advanced level of talks with the RJD-Congress and may be planning to exit the BJP-led coalition.
Sources said that the seat sharing formula was discussed “informally” between Shah and CM Nitish Kumar when the BJP president visited Patna on 12 July. The BJP presently has 22 MPs, while the JDU had won on only two seats in 2014, a steep drop from its 20-seat tally in 2009. The said the deal would see the BJP sacrificing five seats since it currently holds 22 seats in Bihar. It had contested 29 seats in 2014.
“The formula of 17-17-6 has been more or less arrived at. The formal announcement of the same will be done anytime soon. All the issues that were plaguing the relationship, including the issue of special status for Bihar, have been resolved. Both leaders showed great statesmanship and rather than entering into an ego tussle, decided to reach a middle ground and extend respect to each other. For the benefit of both BJP and JDU, it was very important that a common ground was reached quickly,” said a source who is aware of the developments that took place during the meeting. The fact that the JDU was ready to go all alone without caring about the results, if it was not given a “respectable share” of seats, too “helped” both the parties reach a consensus.
According to sources, CM Nitish Kumar, who was pushing for special status for Bihar, has been given a commitment that something on the lines of special status is being deliberated upon by the Centre. “The special status is not for the benefit of the JDU or Nitish Kumar, it will benefit the common people and even if the JDU is not in power, it will benefit the party that comes to power, and, hence, we were very impatient about it,” a JDU source said.
As per sources, among the seats that the BJP may give to the JDU are: Sasaram, which is presently held by BJP’s Cheddi Paswan, who has been very vocal against the JDU and CM Nitish and who is likely to join the Grand Alliance; Patna Sahib, which is presently held by disgruntled BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, but is likely to be contested by JDU treasurer Ranbir Nandan; Darbhanga, which was won by suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad; Munger, which is presently with LJP’s Veena Devi who too has been openly critical of Nitish Kumar; Begusarai which is with BJP MP Bhola Singh who has already crossed 79 years of age; and that of Hukmdev Narayan Yadav (78), another BJP MP who won from Madhubani but has now expressed his unwillingness to contest any more polls.
There are talks that BJP MP from Nawada, Giriraj Singh, might be asked to contest from Begusarai and in that case, the JDU will be given the Nawada seat. Sources said that election strategist Prashant Kishor, who had “quit” his role of adviser to the Bihar CM, has “re-joined” hands with Nitish Kumar and will be helping both BJP and JDU in Bihar during the 2019 elections.