Why NDA's real test begins in Bihar

Amitabh Srivastava
Amitabh SrivastavaJul 25, 2018 | 11:55

Why NDA's real test begins in Bihar

Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has told alliance partner BJP to make a formal proposal about the distribution of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats among NDA constituents by August end.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is believed to have conveyed this to BJP national president Amit Shah when the two met in Patna earlier this month. The JD-U wants an earlier decision in the backdrop of reported unease over seat-sharing between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)constituents for the 2019 general election.


Indeed, for JD-U, returning to its old saffron friends was easy in July 2017 when Nitish Kumar dumped grand alliance, but stitching an amicable seat-sharing with the BJP has so far been easier said than done. The NDA now has four alliance partners in Bihar. Apart from the BJP and the JD-U, the alliance also has Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP).

In the two Lok Sabha polls of 2004 and 2009, which were held after Bihar’s bifurcation in November 2000, the JD (U) always had an upper hand. The JD-U contested 24 seats in 2004 leaving 16 for BJP. In 2009, the JD-U added a seat to its share and contested 25, leaving only 15 for the BJP

But, the scenario changed in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, prior to which Nitish broke his alliance with the BJP over Narendra Modi’s candidature as PM and both parties contested separately. The BJP led NDA swept 2014 polls. The saffron party won 22 seats on its own while its new ally, the LJP, won six out of the seven seats it contested and the RLSP won three out of four seats it contested. Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) was reduced to winning just two seats.


Now, if Nitish Kumar’s party is demanding its old status in the NDA, it is largely owing to the common belief that the party’s dismal show in 2014 was the lowest ebb. “With just two seats in the Lok Sabha, we have nothing to lose. We can only improve from there. It is for our alliance partners to take a note while deciding the seat-sharing deal,” said a senior JD-U leader in Patna. Nitish Kumar has also told his party leaders that even when party’s performance nosedived in 2014, the JD-U still bagged 17 per cent votes. The party is only expected to go up from there.


The JD-U’s entry into the NDA alliance has clearly made it mandatory for the BJP to rewire the alliance configuration. If BJP leaders are to be believed, Paswan’s LJP and Kushwaha (if he continues with the NDA) can well be offered fewer Lok Sabha seats than then ones that they currently represent.

A senior BJP leader confides that there was no other way out, as the saffron party already has 22 Lok Sabha MPs from Bihar. “While a few sitting MPs can be dropped, the party is unlikely to concede its sitting seats for the JD-U,” said a BJP leader in Bihar.


The JD-U is unlikely to shy away from a hard bargain with the BJP over seat sharing. The JD-U has also sensed that allowing the BJP to assert its hegemony in the Lok Sabha can prove costly in the long run too, as the BJP may push it forward and insist for a similar arrangement in the 2020 Assembly polls.

Of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, the NDA has 33 seats with the BJP holding 22, LJP six, RLSP three and JD-U two. A section of BJP leaders in Bihar have begun informally talking about leaving nine seats for Nitish Kumar’s party which includes its two seating seats and seven others that Opposition (RJD four, Congress two and NCP one) has. The JD-U is extremely unlikely to accept such an idea. The party may ask for at least 15 seats, which it had left for BJP in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, while the BJP may offer JD-U a share of 10-12 Lok Sabha seats.

Though JD-U insiders concede that unlike 2013 when Nitish Kumar dumped BJP, he has limited options now, having burnt his bridges with the RJD and the Congress. “However, to our advantage, the BJP’s successive setbacks in the Lok Sabha bypolls combined with a non-existent Modi wave, which swept polls in 2014, will make our saffron allies see reasons,” said a JD-U leader.

The JD-U is apparently hopeful that its strong governance footprints in Bihar coupled with Nitish Kumar’s enormous goodwill would force the BJP to make a respectable offer to the party.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: July 25, 2018 | 11:59
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