New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday took a step back in Bihar’s seat-sharing arrangement for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to accommodate two of its key allies, the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), led by chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan. The BJP and the JD(U) will contest 17 seats each, while the LJP will contest six out of the total 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The ceding of electoral space by the BJP comes in the backdrop of two of its allies from Bihar, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha, quitting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the last one year and joining the opposition’s Mahagatbandhan or grand alliance.

“Seat-sharing was a unanimous decision that was taken keeping in mind the political ground situation in Bihar. All the three parties are hopeful that the NDA will win more seats than it had won in the 2014 general elections. In the coming days, we will also discuss who will contest which seat and work out a joint election campaign," BJP president Amit Shah said at a joint press conference with Kumar and Paswan.

The NDA in 2014, which included the LJP and the RLSP, had won 31 seats in Bihar and contributed significantly to NDA’s Lok Sabha tally. The arrangement for the 2019 elections is a climbdown for the BJP from the 2014 elections when it contested 30 seats and won 22. Senior party leaders feel the BJP’s worries in the forthcoming polls could grow as it would have to deny tickets to sitting Lok Sabha MPs, which could spell internal troubles.

The biggest gainer from the seat-sharing arrangement will be the JD(U). Kumar’s party had won only two out of the 38 seats it had contested in 2014 polls and had lost deposits in 23 seats. “We will come together and work. As far as who will contest which seat, Amit Shah has already said that we will discuss it together," Kumar said.

For the LJP, the number of seats it will contest has come down by one compared to 2014, but Shah said Paswan will be NDA’s candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat as well.

With Paswan set to become a Rajya Sabha member, his long run from the historic Hajipur seat is likely to come to an end. Paswan has represented the seat eight times and held a record at one point for the maximum vote margin, though this has now been surpassed. His son, Chirag Paswan, is now likely to contest from Hajipur.

Close