Amit Shah, Nitish Kumar display optimism after meet in Patna, but seat-sharing could be a challenge

Patna: Though a show of bonhomie between BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar during their recent talks has virtually put to rest the prospects of JD(U) returning to the Grand Alliance for the general elections next year, the seat-sharing arrangement among NDA partners in the state could be a challenge.

Shah and Kumar's bonding over breakfast as well on dinner on Thursday has sent indications that he would not walk out of the coalition and join hands with Lalu Prasad's RJD again if his party is not given the respect of 'elder brother' and provided the lion's share of seats as used to be in the NDA during the times of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.

The BJP chief also expressed a message of togetherness.

Addressing BJP workers during his one-day tour of Bihar on 12 July, Shah in an apparent reference to speculation about Kumar feeling uncomfortable in the coalition and mulling a return to the Grand Alliance, had said, "Detractors must not harbour many hopes. Nitish is not going to side with the corrupt."

 Amit Shah, Nitish Kumar display optimism after meet in Patna, but seat-sharing could be a challenge

Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah during their meeting recently. PTI

It was said that the thorny issue of seat-sharing in the NDA would be resolved during Shah and Kumar's meeting, but sources in the two parties said that besides a general conversation on the prevailing political situation in Bihar, nothing concrete was discussed with regard to seat adjustments for 2019 election.

JD(U) General Secretary KC Tyagi said, "It was a good meeting between the two top leaders and we are happy about it. However, seat sharing is a long process and no one party can arrive at a decision on its own. A decision can be taken only after talks between leaders of all the constituents in a congenial atmosphere."

Senior BJP leader and Bihar minister Nand Kishore Yadav said Shah and Kumar's meeting 'made it emphatically clear that BJP, JD(U) and other NDA constituents will fight together in the coming Parliamentary election as well Assembly election in 2020.'

The Lok Sabha election is still far away, and the issue of distribution of seats would be solved amicably 'at an appropriate time,' said Yadav, who had joined Shah and other leaders of BJP and JD(U) at the dinner hosted by Kumar on Thursday last at his 1, Anne Marg bungalow.

"Our party national president Amit Shah has already said that NDA is going to win all the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar," state BJP vice president Davesh Kumar said, adding "you can take this from me on affidavit paper."

Though there is optimism regarding a settlement on seat sharing, it seems more complicated than what it appears.

Dynamics within the NDA have changed after the re-entry of Nitish Kumar into the fold last year after he left the Grand Alliance, that also comprised the RJD and Congress.

During the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014, BJP, LJP and RLSP won 31 out of a total of 40 seats in Bihar, while the JD(U), which had an alliance with Left parties could manage to bag only two seats.

BJP and its old allies LJP and RLSP had snatched over a dozen Lok Sabha seats in Bihar which JD(U) had won in 2009, and in such a condition it would be difficult for any party to insist that these constituencies were their stronghold.

The Muzaffarpur seat was won by Capt Jai Narain Nishad of JD(U) in 2009 but in 2014, his son Ajay Nishad bagged the seat as a BJP nominee.

Similarly, Valmikinagar (SC), Jhanjharpur, Gopalganj, Ujiyarpur, Begusarai and Arrah were with JD(U) in 2009, and the BJP won these seats in 2014.

Ramsundar Das of JD(U) had won the Hajipur (reserved seat) in 2009 defeating Ramvilas Paswan then but, Paswan, now a Union minister, snatched it from Kumar's party in the 2014 poll.
Karakat seat was with JD(U) in 2009 but it was won by RLSP chief and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha in the last poll.

There were at least four Lok Sabha seats where the JD(U) had come second to NDA winners in 2014, though they had held those constituencies previously. For example, in Munger, the present state minister and a close confidant of the chief minister, Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan, bagged the seat in 2009, but lost there in 2014 to Veena Devi of LJP.

Arrah seat was with JD(U) in 2009, but in the last election, Union energy minister RK Singh won it as a BJP nominee.

There is also likely to be uncertainty in the Madhepura seat which Sharad Yadav, now expelled from the JD(U), won in 2009 but lost to Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav in 2014. Pappu Yadav at that time was a RJD candidate, but has now separated and formed his own 'Jan Adhikar Party'.

The NDA would also have to take a decision on the Jehanabad seat held by RLSP Arun Kumar.

After differences with party president Upendra Kushwaha, Arun Kumar has petitioned Election Commission to recognise him as the original RLSP and provide him the symbol.

"Besides me, out of two MLAs in the state one (Lallan Paswan) is with me. I am having separate talks with the BJP leaders for contesting together in 2019 elections," Arun Kumar said.

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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2018 15:29:59 IST