New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah held a series of meetings with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna on Thursday as part of efforts to narrow the differences between the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) over seat-sharing arrangements for the 2019 general elections.

The first meeting of the two leaders, which took place over breakfast, was described as “very cordial" by both sides. The two leaders met again in the evening for dinner.

“I am sure the people of Bihar will keep the spirit alive and support the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) so that it wins all the 40 seats in the state," Shah told BJP members in Patna after his breakfast meeting with Kumar.

Shah dismissed speculation that Kumar was annoyed with the delay in coming to an agreement about seat-sharing and was looking for an option to join hands with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. He said that detractors must not harbour such hopes as Kumar would not support the corrupt.

Senior JD(U) leaders are of the opinion that the party would ideally want to contest between 15 and 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

This could be a problem for the NDA as during the 2014 general election, the alliance had won 31 out of the 40 seats in which the BJP got 22, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won six and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) got three. Nitish Kumar, who was not part of the NDA during the general elections, could only manage to win two seats in the state.

“JD(U) has only two demands from BJP. We want respectable distribution of seats so that there is no confusion that JD(U) has more seats in the Bihar assembly as compared to the BJP. JD(U) would not want to contest less than 15 Lok Sabha seats. The meeting between Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah was cordial," said a senior JD(U) leader based in Patna.

No member of the LJP and RLSP was present when Shah met Kumar though the two parties are crucial members of the NDA in Bihar. While Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan, chief of LJP, and Upendra Kushwaha, chief of RLSP, are out of the country, there was no representative from the two parties in the meeting.

“JD(U) is keen that the election in Bihar is fought under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar because he is the senior-most leader of the NDA in the state and the work done by the state government also gets highlighted along with the development work of the Union government," the JD(U) leader explained.

Shah’s reaching out to Kumar is significant because JD(U) had quit the NDA in 2013 only to come back to its fold last year. With less than a year to go for the Lok Sabha elections, seat-sharing has become a bone of contention between the two sides.

JD(U) leaders on Thursday shared optimism over the meetings with Shah and said that the BJP chief is known to have “praised" the combined leadership of Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

An informal meeting of senior JD(U) leaders is now likely to take place in Patna on Friday, where the leaders will deliberate over the key takeaways of the meetings with Shah.

“We are all likely to hold a meeting tomorrow. All of us have opinions on the development and we need to meet and hold a discussion," a senior JD(U) leader from Patna said on condition of anonymity.

PTI contributed to this story.

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