New Delhi: Having decided to contest more than two-thirds of the Bihar assembly seats for the first time in 20 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now scouting out candidates from rival parties, including the Janata Dal (United), or JDU, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress party.

The party wants to ensure that it has new candidates who can win in several seats that it has not contested in the past. Senior BJP leaders expect that after the Election Commission announces the dates for the polls, due this year, more people will join the party.

“BJP leaders of Bihar and central leaders had anticipated this problem during the Lok Sabha elections—that the party will need candidates for assembly elections. There are many seats where we have never contested because of our past alliances. But now, the situation has changed. Our party members are free to contest. We have also inducted many of the former JDU, RJD and Congress leaders who have been former members of assembly or Parliament. Since these people have some support of people because of their past election records, we want to back them," said a senior BJP leader who is involved in the process of drafting candidates from rival parties.

Senior BJP leaders claim that former members of Parliaments and members of the legislative assembly are joining the party, attracted by its prospects in Bihar.

“People join a party because of the prospects. If a party is likely to win, people from other political parties are likely to join," the BJP leader added.

The BJP used similar tactics in the run-up to assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Bihar assembly currently has 243 seats, of which the BJP has never contested more than 102, as most of the seats were contested by its former alliance partner, the JDU, a strong regional force.

However, in previous assembly elections, when Bihar had a much larger assembly, the BJP contested many more seats. Notably, in 1995, it contested 315 out of 324 seats, winning 41.

Now, with Narendra Modi as prime minister, the BJP fancies its chances in alliance with some minor regional parties. The combination won a majority of the seats in Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when Modi led the campaign, and the party is confident of a repeat performance at the assembly polls.

The BJP is the second largest party in the state assembly and is seeking to topple the Nitish Kumar-led JDU government.

However, the JDU has now joined hands with former chief minister Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the ruling Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh in a bid to mount a united challenge to the BJP.

BJP president Amit Shah has asked the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to work toward a “Mission 185 plus" in Bihar so that the alliance, along with the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Khushwaha, can win a majority of seats.

“Since the BJP is the largest party in the alliance, it is obvious that we will contest the most number of seats. We have no threat from the alliance of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar because these two leaders have come together because of the fear of BJP," a second BJP leader said.

The BJP leader also clarified that seat-sharing arrangements will be discussed by the state unit of the party and not by the central leadership.

However, the political dynamics in the NDA appear to have changed since the general election.

While the BJP has decided that it will not announce a chief ministerial candidate for the Bihar assembly election, its alliance partner RLSP has named Khushwaha as the RLSP’s chief ministerial candidate. The party has demanded that Khushwaha be named the chief ministerial candidate of the NDA.

Even more problematically for the BJP, a number of senior leaders in Bihar want to be declared the NDA’s chief ministerial candidate.

Political analysts feel the smaller or marginal regional parties that helped the BJP win in the Lok Sabha elections now want to play a bigger role in the assembly election.

“It is also a pressure tactic being used to contest more seats. Many people are joining the BJP because they want to contest elections and probably both the JDU and RJD are not able to accommodate them. Joining the BJP doesn’t guarantee election tickets but the aspiration to contest the election is obviously present. There is no ideological commitment to stay with the BJP or NDA," said Badri Narayan, a professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

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