2024 Lok Sabha Elections: All is Not Well in NDA in Bihar, ‘Ignored’ Chirag Paswan May Join INDIA Block

What raised eyebrows was that Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Morcha president and former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha did not recently share dias with PM Modi in Begusarai, Bettiah and Aurangabad.
Chirag Paswan
Chirag Paswan

New Delhi: Even though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar claims that the seat-sharing arrangement for the 2024 general elections has almost been finalised, there are still disagreements among its allies. 

The fact that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the president of the Janata Dal United or JD-U, a major ally of the NDA in the state, did not share a dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 6 in Bettiah on the pretext that he was in Delhi for heading to England, raised eyebrows.

When he was a member of the Opposition INDIA alliance last year, Nitish used to insist that seat distribution be finalised as soon as possible. However, he has since stopped discussing the NDA’s delay.

Sources said the BJP is facing difficulties because of its smaller allies, such as the Hindustani Awam Morcha of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) of Chirag Paswan, the Lok Janshakti Party of Union Minister Pasupati Kumar Paras and the Rashtriya Lok Morcha of former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, are unwilling to submit to its dictates and are actively negotiating for seat sharing. This is now evident following the JD-U’s re-entry into the NDA fold on January 28.

Furthermore, Nitish’s party is sure that it would not back down from its previous election-winning total of 16 seats. The JD-U in alliance with the BJP fielded 17 candidates, of whom 16 won, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A senior leader of the BJP told The Mooknayak his party will run for 17 seats. The candidates will be finalised soon and their names will be sent to the top leadership for approval.

“Party’s top leaders are likely to discuss and finalise seat-sharing with allies soon,” he added.

More than 40 days after the NDA government was sworn in, there has been no cabinet expansion, and concerns over seat sharing are growing.

Political observers in the state claimed that Nitish’s cabinet expansion has been postponed due to the NDA’s insistence on seat-sharing. There is little chance of the expansion without this chief, who is out of the country.

It appears that he is holding off until the BJP decides on seat sharing.

“Nitish has a history of successfully advancing his agreement with the BJP. Despite his party, the JD-U, winning only two seats in the 2014 elections when it ran alone, he was allotted 17 seats to contest in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. This time also, he will bargain hard,” they said.

But some allies, like Kushwaha and Chirag, are unhappy with Nitish’s re-entry into the NDA.

Sources close to Kushwaha and Chirag claim that ever since Nitish teamed up, the BJP has been ignoring them. Observing a shift in the BJP’s political stance, Chirag and Kushwaha have communicated to the party’s upper echelons that they expect a fair share of the seats.

Kushwaha is requesting at least three seats to run for, while Chiran has been demanding the six seats that his party has previously fought on. However, if the sources are to be believed, the BJP has offered Chirag’s faction of the LJP four seats and Kushwaha’s party one seat. 

The primary point of contention is the Hajipur Lok Sabha seat, which was won by Chirag’s younger uncle Paras. Chirag wants to contest from the constituency, which is his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s ancestral home.

However, Paras has consistently stated that he will run for Hajipur again and is not willing to back down.

Similarly, Kushwaha wants the Karakat seat — which he won in 2014. It is unlikely that he will be ready to give the seat to the JD-U — considering the fact that he won from there in 2019.

Currently held by the JD-U and the BJP, there are about six such seats the allies additional of the NDA are staking claim on.

Disappointed with the way the NDA’s seat-sharing formula was allegedly altered with after Nitish’s return, both Chirag and Kushwaha refused to share dais with PM Modi on his official tour to Begusarai and Aurangabad on March 2 that was subsequently transformed into a political program.

For the second time in five days, Chirag and Kushwaha did not join Modi on the dais in Bettiah on March 6. Absence of both the leaders from the rally suggests that there is infighting within the Bihar NDA on seat-sharing.

Prior to Nitish’s reappointment to the NDA, the BJP sources stated the party will contest on 30-32 seats, with the remainder going to allies.

Until recently, Chirag, who earlier identified himself as Modi’s Hanuman, has not yet joined ‘Modi ka Parivar’ (Modi’s family) — a campaign the saffron party launched in reaction to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s recent remarks, questioning Modi’s family.

The Opposition INDIA block, on the other hand, has finalised its seat-sharing arrangement. According to this formula, securing the maximum number of seats in the upcoming elections is the primary goal in order to stop the NDA from repeating its triumph in Bihar in 2019.

The NDA won 39 of the 40 parliamentary seats in the state in the previous polls, while the Congress bagged only one and the RJD failed to open its account — a major defeat for the party.

There is a lot of conjecture, though, that Chirag would leave the BJP and join hands with the Opposition block if he is denied a dignified number of NDA’s seats.

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