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NDA faces threat in Bihar with JD(U), LJP in disagreement over multiple issues

The NDA in Bihar is facing headwinds amid a clash between Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP (PTI )Premium
The NDA in Bihar is facing headwinds amid a clash between Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP (PTI )

  • LJP has been critical of the government led by Nitish Kumar over the way it managed the return of migrant labourers to Bihar, among other things
  • JD(U) has said it will contest on at least 120 seats in Bihar and that the BJP should share its seats with the LJP

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Bihar is facing challenges ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in that state, as alliance partners Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) differ on several critical issues.

Among the issues that have led to differences between the two alliance partners are: employment opportunities for migrant labourers who have returned to Bihar during the lockdown, farmers' issues, seat sharing, and, above all, chief ministership of the state. LJP's senior leadership believes the opportunity to become chief minister of Bihar should also go to the party and should not remain with JD(U).

"LJP leaders have been very critical of the Bihar government, particularly chief minister Nitish Kumar. They were critical about the state government's management of the coronavirus pandemic, migrant labourers returning home, employment generation for labourers, and farmers' issues. Differences have reached a stage where both LJP and JD(U) have openly said they are alliance partners of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and not of each other," said a senior JD(U) leader from Bihar.

JD(U) leaders argued that they have conveyed to BJP leaders that out of the 243 seats, JD(U) intends to contest on at least 120, and any seat sharing with LJP will be done by the BJP from its own share of seats.

"There are 12 seats going to polls for members of legislative council (MLCs), JD(U) has told BJP that it will contest on at least 7 and the remaining 5 can be distributed between LJP and BJP members. We have also conveyed to BJP that JD(U) will contest on 120-122 seats in Bihar polls and the BJP should accommodate the demands of LJP. BJP is talking to LJP about seat sharing and the comments made by its leaders," the JD(U) leader said.

Bihar's is a high-stake election; it was the first state that stopped the winning streak of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2015. Chief minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U), which was earlier aligned with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led Mahagathbandhan, is now with the NDA. Amid the changing alliance dynamics in the state, Nitish is eyeing his fourth term in top office.

The NDA, however, is dealing with the problem of a disgruntled LJP. The state capital is abuzz with speculation triggered by the sacking of a district unit president of LJP who claimed the NDA was intact on the ground. The party functionary was removed, after it was pointed out to him that such statements were against the party line and could be issued only by party chief Chirag Paswan.

Paswan has been critical of the state government on a few issues, including the handling of the migrant crisis, leading to JD(U) leaders expressing disappointment. Senior leaders in LJP, however, feel that at the heart of the crisis could be a potential seat sharing rift ahead of the upcoming polls. At the 2015 assembly elections, JD(U) was in the opposition camp and LJP was then the biggest ally of the BJP in the state and contested from 42 of the 243 seats.

“There seems to be some discontentment in our senior leadership. Our national president also gave some statements recently. When elections approach, a number of issues need to be sorted out, and seat sharing is one among them. Our party has some differences with the state government, but by and large there is no question of any threat to the alliance," a senior parliamentarian from LJP said, requesting anonymity.

The leader quoted above added that the differences seem to be more with the JD(U), and the BJP has sent its senior leadership for parleys in the state over the past one week. “We are hopeful that whatever our party’s concerns are will be addressed. The shift in alliance over the last few terms also makes things complicated. In 2015, JD(U) was not in the NDA, the understanding has to be more nuanced now," the leader quoted above added.

In 2015 assembly elections, BJP contested on 157 seats while LJP contested on 42 and the rest went to smaller partners, while RJD-JD(U)-Congress were under the umbrella of Mahagathbandhan. In 2010 assembly elections, JD(U) and BJP were together, while RJD and the LJP were in an alliance, and Congress contested alone.

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