Pre-poll jitters in NDA over next Bihar CM

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Hectic parleys BJP president Amit Shah shakes hands with Chirag Paswan as LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan looks on.
Hectic parleys BJP president Amit Shah shakes hands with Chirag Paswan as LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan looks on.

With the Bihar Assembly election looming large on the horizon, the last thing that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) needed was open season squabbling over its chief ministerial candidate. But that is what seems to be happening in the politically crucial state.

All indications suggest that the NDA led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is finding it really difficult to keep its allies together in the state. It seems that the BJP’s huge challenge in the upcoming polls in the state will be to convince its allies.

Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), one of BJP’s key allies decided to project its party chief Upendra Kushwaha as the Chief Ministerial candidate. Kushwaha is currently Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development in the Modi-led NDA government.

However, the BJP  high command has reiterated that it will stick to its traditional policy of going into polls without declaring a chief ministerial candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the face of the party in the polls.

It is interesting to note that the saffron party had not declared any chief ministerial candidate in any Assembly polls, barring Delhi, it contested after coming to power at the Centre in 2014.

“After the polls, the party will decide who should be nominated (for CM’s post). So any declaration or any announcement now shall have no validity from the NDA front,” the BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.

Meanwhile, another ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Ram Vilas Paswan has opposed five legislators associated with Jitan Ram Manjhi’s newly-formed Hindustani Awam Morcha (ham). The LJP had welcomed ham into nda fold. But the five legislators in question had split the LJP party in 2005 and walked away with dozen MLAs to merge with Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

Another cause of concern for the BJP will be the seat sharing formula with its allies. Kushwaha had already declared that the Lok Sabha seat sharing formula will not work for Assembly polls.

Kushwaha has expressed willingness to contest 67 seats. However, according to the Lok Sabha seat sharing formula (assuming six assembly segment for each Lok Sabha seat in Bihar), Kushwaha’s RLSP is entitled to contest on 24 seats while Paswan’s LJP can claim 42 seats only.

According to the proposal passed by RLSP, the LJP should get 74 seats, BJP 102 and RLSP 67. The party has also proposed that all the parties should proportionately vacate seats for Manjhi’s ham.

The seat-sharing formula by the RLSP  is not official and the sources in the BJP have hinted that the party was planning to contest 160 seats in the 243-member Assembly, leaving around 80 seats for its allies. The BJP has 94 seats in the outgoing assembly. But one thing is clear that the BJP’s dominance seems to have taken a hit in the state since the General Election last year.

Meanwhile in the rival camp of RJD- JD ( U) combine, it was decided that the JD ( U) will contest to retain the seats it won in the last Assembly polls, while the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) will take on BJP stronghold. The JD ( U) won 112 seats in the last polls while the rjd could only manage 22 seats. RJD seems to have a difficult task at hand. The RJD-JD ( U) combine will corner BJP on the Land Acquisition Bill and the recent Lalit Modi controversy involving its Union Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The RJD-JD (U) combine will pose a formidable challenge to the NDA in the upcoming polls. Bihar is a state where caste factor still plays a dominant role in the elections. RJD will look to capitalise on its core vote bank of Yadavs and Muslims, while Nitish will seek votes on his track record as the chief minister. With four months to go to polls, the NDA, if its wants to replicate what it has done in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, need to pull up its socks and work out a strategy with its allies to take on the RJD-JD (U) combine.

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