Even as the opposition Grand Alliance partners struggle to reach a seat-sharing deal, the ruling NDA on Sunday finally announced the number of the seats its three constituents will be contesting in Bihar, which has a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats. Significantly, the Bihar BJP bent over backwards to please its two allies, the JD-U and the LJP, by gifting them as many as six of its sitting seats ~ a move which is set to leave the saffron camp in the fire of rebellion in the days to come.
Angry supporters of the MPs who lost their seats to their allies have already started tendering resignation en mass to register their protest.
The BJP had won as many as 22 seats out of the state’s total 40 LS seats in the last LS polls but the party has surrendered six of its sitting seats to its two allies to ensure it performs well in the LS polls. Of these six seats, five have gone to the chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, the latest entrant to the NDA, whereas one seat, Nawada, has gone to the LJP’s share.
Nawada is currently represented by firebrand BJP leader and one of the most controversial BJP ministers, Giriraj Singh. This means Singh will have to either go without a ticket or, more probably, shift to some other constituency. The BJP has given the majority of the Muslim-dominated seats, such as Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia, Supaul, Bhangalpur and Siwan to the JD-U in apparent hope of wooing woo minority voters on the “secular” image of chief minister Kumar who till recently was the second choice of Muslim voters after RJD chief Lalu Prasad. The recent flip-flops by Kumar, however, dented his image very much and it is to be seen if he is able to still attract the minority votes to the NDA.
In the last LS polls, the UPA comprising the RJD, Congress and the NCP had made a near-clean sweep in the border region, winning Araria, Bhagalpur, Kishanganj, Katihar and Supaul at the height of the Narendra Modi wave which saw a huge polarisation of the Muslim voters. Kumar’s JD-U was not a part of the NDA then and had pitted itself against both the NDA and the UPA, ending up winning only two out of the total 40 seats it had contested in alliance with the CPI.
“We have reached a seat-sharing deal through mutual understanding and hope to make a clean sweep in Bihar,” state JD-U president Vashishtha Narayan Singh told a press conference in the presence of Bihar BJP chief Nityanand Rai and LJP’s state chief Pashupati Kumar Paras.
Although the leaders withheld the list of candidates apparently to avoid rebellion in the party, the loss of sitting seats has caused unrest in the party. The first sign of revolt came from West Champaran district where as many as 15 mandal presidents, two district office bearers,, IT cell coordinators, and the president of the district farmer cell resigned in protest against allocation of Valimikinagar LS seat to the JD-U.
Similar unrest prevails in the district party units in the Jhanjharpur, Gaya, Siwan and Gopalganj, and the coming days are going to be tumultuous for the BJP.
In sharp contrast to the NDA, the Grand Alliance has come to the brink of a premature breakup in view of hardened stance allegedly being adopted by the Congress and some allies over allocation of seats. A number of new parties such as the Rashtriya Lok Samaat Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikassheel Instan Party (VIP) and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) have joined the Grand Alliance.
The RJD has been asking the Congress to bring down the number of its seats so as to accommodate the new allies but the former has been adamant on not going below 11 while the RJD wants to spare 8-9 seats. The rigidity being shown by the Congress has also encouraged the other smaller parties to seek more seats, which has left the GA in trouble.