Bihar: NDA partners begin arm-twisting BJP
The BJP leadership is worried over RJD chief Lalu Yadav opening negotiations with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and union minister Upendra Kushwaha.
Though the negotiations have so far taken place through private channels, its reverberations were felt on Thursday meeting in New Delhi, when both these leaders upped their demand for greater seat share in the Bihar assembly polls scheduled for October-November.
The meeting however, remained inconclusive about the number of seats, but Kushwaha after the meeting hinted at a hardening of stance saying that the alliance between JDU) and RJD had made NDA’s work in the coming assembly elections harder.
Kushwaha, a onetime protégé of Nitish Kumar, moved out when he felt he was not being given space commensurate with his stature. He belongs to the numerically strong Koeri community. His Rashtriya Lok Samata Party had contested three seats in Lok Sabha polls as part of the NDA and won all three.
This time around he had initially made a demand for 50 seats and on Thursday made it clear that nothing less than 24 seats was acceptable to him.
While Kushwaha discussed seat sharing arrangement, leaders of his party even suggested that Kushwaha should be projected as NDA’s chief ministerial candidate to counter the RJD-JD(U) alliance’s appeal among the backward castes.
With Kumar being projected as the chief ministerial face of the ‘Janata Parivar’ alliance, pressure has mounted on BJP to declare its leader as well.
On the other hand, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was shown the door by Nitish Kumar, is also being courted aggressively by Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Of the 22% Dalit votes in Bihar, Manjhi, belonging to Mushar community, represents a bigger chunk than union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Dusadh community. Entry of Manjhi into NDA would cut into seat share of Paswan, who is reported to have reconciled to being part of NDA even if it means some political slight for the time being.
Though Manjhi has been driving a hard bargain so far, BJP is reported to have offered him 12 to 15 seats. Sources said the seat share may go up to 18 at best as winning quotient of his candidates is very low though his coming in could add to over all vote share.