NDA = National Divided Alliance; at least in Bihar
- The NDA made of fun of Lalu-Nitish for bickering
- The alliance\'s own house is hardly in order
- Upendra Kushwaha wants BJP to fight only 102 of 243 seats
- He seeks the rest for Paswan\'s LJP & his own party, leaving nothing for Manjhi
- LJP is also miffed with BJP\'s big-brother attitude
Not long ago, the NDA would make fun of how Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar bickered with friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Lalu Prasad. The tables, suddenly, seems to have turned.
The ol' Janata boys seem to have buried the hatchet - apparently Lalu drops in at Kumar's house pretty often these days (earlier it would be only the CM pursuing him for the sake of the alliance). They have even worked out a seat-sharing formula with the Congress.
The NDA, on the other hand, is now looking like a divided house.
While the RJD and JDU have agreed to contest 100 seats each in the Bihar Assembly elections (leaving 40 for the Congress), the NDA seems nowhere close to any agreement.
As the Nitish-Lalu combine gets busy preparing for the 30 August Swabhiman Rally, the BJP and its allies are far away from working out a smooth formula to decide who gets to fight how many seats.
House of cards
The BJP tried to give a message of unity by seating Ramvilas Paswan, Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his recent rallies. But the signs of discord are hard to ignore.
Kushwaha, who heads Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, has demanded that BJP should limit itself to 102 seats and leave the rest to the allies. His logic: That's about as much the party got in alliance with Nitish. Notably, he has demanded 67 seats for his own and 74 for Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party. That would leave none for former CM Manjhi in the 243-seat Houses.
But the BJP has already shown its intent by taking its Parivartan Rath to 170 constituencies. Under no circumstance would it agree to fight fewer than150 seats, party sources said.
Even in the Lok Sabha polls and the recently concluded Upper House elections, the BJP kept 75% of the seats to itself. They did the same in the recently-held Legislative Council elections too.
The BJP and its allies are far away from working out a smooth formula to decide who gets to fight how many seats
Political analysts are sure that the BJP would not accept Kushwaha's demand. But Kushwaha's rhetoric has recently found support in the LJP, which conducted a joint press conference with the RLSP on Monday. The parties gave the BJP a week to sort things out as Paswan's younger brother Pashupati Paras backed Kushwaha's to the hilt.
In fact, seat sharing is not the only trouble for the NDA. Of late, the smaller parties have stepped up their complaints about "big brother" BJP. Both the LJP and the RLSP questioned the 'abki baar, BJP sarkar' slogan, saying the NDA instead should have been highlighted.
"BJP leaders are insulting our workers. They must call an alliance meeting to settle the disputes," RLSP state chief Arun Kumar said. "If they continue to insinuate through the media, we will follow suit."
LJP leader Ramchandra Paswan accused BJP of working for the defeat of its Hajipur candidate during the MLC elections. "Our workers will not take it lying down," he said.
Ramvilas's son Chirag recently met Amit Shah in Delhi. Sources said he reminded the BJP boss of LJP's ultimatum to formalise a seat-sharing arrangement within a week.
BJP's state chief Mangal Pandey sought to play the issue down: "Consultations are going on and we will soon reach a consensus," he said.
But are things that easy? What about Manjhi, who has made it clear that he needs a respectable share of seats or else can make a different choice?
Or, for that matter, Pappu Yadav? The Kosi strongman gave hope to the BJP when he rebelled against Lalu. But what his share of seats would be is not clear. He, anyway, has an offer from Asaduddin Owaisi. That would not be too much of a worry for the BJP, but he may walk away with Manjhi in the process.
Party MP Shatrughan Sinha has added to BJP's woes by pitching Paswan as the CM designate, taking a dig at Modi's DNA comment by citing the example of 'Manjhi-The Mountain Man' and advising the BJP to follow Nitish in not allotting tickets to criminals.
The BJP indeed is red-faced for the time being.