Nitish Kumar denies reports of discontent within Bihar NDA, says talks on seat-sharing will begin during election season

Patna: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said seat-sharing will be discussed and decided within the NDA when elections come and "there is no discontent" in the ruling alliance, as he distanced himself from reports about his party demanding 25 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in next general elections.

Kumar sought to put the blame on political leaders trying to seek "publicity" by making out of turn statements in newspapers, TV channels and on social media.

"You can see all of us working together. There is no discontent. The problem is, today newspapers have more pages than before, news channels run 24X7 and then there is social media where anybody can say anything without worrying about backing a claim with facts," he said.

File image of JD(U) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

File image of JD(U) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

Speaking to reporters, the JD(U) leader also sought to distance himself from assertions by some leaders that his party be acknowledged as "big brother" in the coalition comprising BJP, LJP and RLSP within the state.

"When elections come, all things, seat-sharing included, will be discussed and decided. This is not the time. Though some people may go on issuing statements for publicity, these have no substance (inmein koi dam nahin hai)," Kumar said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of Lok Samvad, a public interaction programme where common people of the state are given an opportunity to come up with suggestions for improving governance.

He was talking to reporters in presence of a number of his cabinet colleagues, including Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, as also ministers Mangal Pandey and Prem Kumar.

The chief minister, who returned to the BJP-led coalition in 2017 after leaving the Grand Alliance comprising RJD and Congress as part of which he had fought and won the 2015 assembly polls, was responding to the political controversy that had erupted last week after some JD(U) leaders demanded Nitish being made "face" of the NDA in Bihar.

Reacting to the demands, BJP leaders had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the face of the NDA in the country while Nitish was its leader in Bihar.

The demands by JD(U) leaders for making Nitish face of the NDA in Bihar and his party "the big brother" in the coalition was also seen by some as a tactical position for getting a lion's share in the seat-sharing arrangement. This prompted another alliance partner RLSP to say that the next Lok Sabha elections as well as the state Assembly polls should be fought under the leadership of its chief Upendra Kushwaha, who is also a Union minister.

A former JD(U) leader, Kushwaha had formed the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party after falling out with Nitish Kumar.

Kushwaha also skipped a get-together of top NDA leaders in Bihar on Thursday last week though he claimed that he did not attend the function because of unavoidable personal reasons.

An Iftar party hosted by Kushwaha on Sunday was not attended by Nitish, Sushil Modi and leaders from the LJP, which further fuelled talks of discontent within the NDA in Bihar.

Before Kumar walked out of the NDA in middle of 2013 over elevation of Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate, the JD(U) and BJP had together fought Parliamentary elections in Bihar in 2005 as well 2009. In those elections, JD(U) had fielded candidates on more number of seats vis-a-vis the saffron partner.

But, in 2014 general election riding on popularity of Narendra Modi, the NDA won 31 out of a total 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. While BJP bagged 22 seats, LJP of Union minister Ramvilas Paswan 6 and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Upendra Kushwaha 3. JD(U), which had fought the 2014 polls alone, could manage only two seats.

With Kumar's return to the NDA in July 2017, a raging debate has been triggered within the coalition now on seat-sharing between the four partners.

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Updated Date: Jun 12, 2018 06:30:49 IST

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