New Delhi: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which is the biggest party (in terms of number of MLAs) in the Bihar Grand Alliance (GA), is in no mood to admit the Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) into the GA fold.
Senior RJD party leaders have termed the news that the LJP was being offered 40 to 50 seats and the Deputy CM chair to LJP leader Chirag Paswan by the RJD leadership for joining the GA as “baseless”. According to them, such news was being floated by interested parties to put more pressure on the BJP decision makers.
“No talk has happened; no talk is going on between the RJD leadership and the LJP leadership. Why will we want LJP into the Grand Alliance (GA)? Such news is being floated by leaders of LJP themselves to seek more seats from the BJP in Bihar. Will Ram Vilas Paswan resign as a Central minister to join the Grand Alliance? Chirag Paswan is bluffing. In the end, he will stay in the NDA and contest on 20-25 seats,” a top RJD source told The Sunday Guardian.
The RJD, buoyed by multiple reports that Nitish Kumar was facing very strong anti-incumbency, is likely to contest on around 160 seats in the 243-seat Bihar assembly. The party strategists believe that given their track record of 80% strike rate (it had won on 80 of the 101 seats it had contested in 2015), it needs to contest on at least 160 seats to cross the magic mark of 122 on its own in the Bihar Assembly so that it does not need to be dependent on any other party for support to form the government. Of the total 3.71 crore valid votes that were polled in the 2015 elections, the RJD had got 69.95 lakh votes, 24 lakh votes less than the BJP which had got 93.08 lakh votes. BJP, however, could win only 53 of the 157 seats it had contested. The LJP, which had contested on 42 seats, won on merely two seats.
The remaining 83 seats (if the RJD contests on 160 seats) will be divided between the other members of the GA that consist of the Congress, the Left parties (CPI and CPI (M-L), the Upendra Kushwaha led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). RJD strategists believe that they need to cross the 122-mark on their own to come and stay in power as the BJP was a master in weaning away MLAs and forming government despite not having the majority.
Led by the father-son duo of Ram Vilas Paswan and Chirag Paswan, the LJP, for the last two months, has been publicly criticising Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his governance, which has been attributed by political observers as pressure tactics being used by the Paswans to seek more seats for themselves from the NDA’s share. With the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Avam Morcha (HAM) joining the NDA recently, LJP’s desire of contesting on at least 40 seats has taken a major hit. The JDU has already stated that it will contest on at least 120 seats, leaving the remaining 123 to be divided between the BJP, LJP and HAM.
BJP party sources, on the other hand, told The Sunday Guardian that they would be contesting on more or an equal number of seats than what the JDU would be contesting on, but in no case was it going to contest on less than 105 seats.
BJP strategists believe that it needs to win on more seats than JDU so that if a “volatile” situation arises in the future—similar to what arose when Nitish Kumar had contested the 2015 elections with Lalu Prasad Yadav before joining hands with the BJP—the saffron party can form the government without the support of Nitish Kumar in the future.