New Delhi: The newly minted alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United), or JD(U) is on the edge.

The relationship has particularly soured over the distribution of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar among the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

If the two parties are unable to overcome their differences then it could trigger fresh turmoil in the state and also trigger a political realignment.

The tussle between the NDA in Bihar started because none of the alliance partners is willing to relinquish their seats to accommodate the JD(U), which is the latest entrant to the NDA in Bihar. Among the NDA constituents who contested the 2014 election as an alliance, the BJP won 22 seats, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won six and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) three.

“We are being offered 8-9 seats in Bihar which is too less for us to contest. It is not acceptable to us. JD(U) would at least want to contest 15 seats in the state. Earlier we used to contest 22-23 seats with BJP but since there are more parties in NDA now, we are aware that JD(U) may not get so many seats. But the offer now is for 8-9 seats which is unacceptable," said a senior JD(U) leader based in Patna.

BJP chief Amit Shah is likely to meet chief minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the JD(U), on 12 July to broker peace. Senior leaders of the NDA argue that Shah could also try to convince Kumar to contest fewer seats.

“Nitish Kumar had won two out of the 40 seats in the 2014 general elections. Why should other NDA partners give up their claim on seats? The BJP has the maximum number of seats in Bihar, so the BJP can accommodate the JD(U) from its share of seats. Smaller parties like the LJP and RLSP need not give up their share of seats," said a senior NDA member from Patna on condition of anonymity.

Bihar is crucial to the BJP’s 2019 plans as the state had given 31 seats to the NDA in the 2014 general elections. The BJP’s offer of 8-9 seats to JD(U) is also problematic because this would be the fewest seats contested by the JD(U) in the last three Lok Sabha polls.

“The less number of seats is significant because it shows how Nitish Kumar is being treated in NDA. We left the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) because of the corruption allegation against Lalu Prasad but JD(U) is not being treated with respect in NDA also. The months leading to 2019 general elections are crucial for NDA in Bihar," said the JD(U) leader quoted above.

Kumar has already issued an ultimatum to BJP and other NDA partners that the distribution of seats should be finished within a month so that NDA gets ample time to prepare for general elections.

The worry for the NDA in Bihar is also growing because former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had quit the party earlier this year while RSLP leader Upendra Kushwaha is annoyed with the induction of Nitish Kumar in NDA.

Senior leaders point out that the recent defeats of the BJP-NDA combine in the bypolls for the Lok Sabha in Araria and two assembly seats in Jehanabad and Bhabua have given the momentum to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Congress alliance in the state.

“The loss in bypolls happened this year and it is a comment on the state government as well as the Union government. Differences in NDA would only benefit the opposition and we have to end our differences soon," said the JD(U) leader quoted above.

The political differences between NDA in Bihar are also reflective of the situation nationally as another NDA partner Shiv Sena has already stated that it would contest both 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly elections alone in Maharashtra. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab is also annoyed with the lack of discussion and strategizing within NDA.

“Bihar has become the laboratory of alliance politics. Configuration of alliances is still not complete in the state, and it is true for both sides. If Nitish Kumar agrees to play second fiddle to BJP then he will forfeit his chances of becoming chief minister in 2020 when assembly elections are due in the state. Nitish Kumar is trying to safeguard his post and dominance in the state," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst and associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

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