BJP seals seat-share deal with allies
After days of hard negotiations with allies, BJP president Amit Shah today announced the seat-sharing formula for the 243-member Bihar Assembly elections after successfully managing the most difficult of the lot — former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Under the agreement, the BJP will contest 160 seats, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP 40, Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) 20 and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) 23 seats.
The formula is close to what Shah had aimed for while initiating negotiations with the three allies. The additional benefit that Manjhi gets is that some of his candidates will also contest on the BJP ticket. Shah did not reveal their exact number, but sources say the Manjhi-led HAM (S) may get five additional seats.
While question mark remains on whether Manjhi will contest the Assembly elections, sources say he may be accommodated at the Centre just as Paswan and Kushwaha.
With the seat-sharing formula in place, the central election committee of the BJP is expected to clear the names of candidates for the first two phases on Tuesday. The remaining BJP seats may be announced by September 19. The poll manifesto is likely to be released around September 20.
Allies will be allocated seats according to “winnability”, caste factor and area of dominance — constituencies they won in the last general and assembly polls.
Like Paswan and Kushwaha, Manjhi’s presence in the NDA is crucial for the BJP to manage the complex caste equation in Bihar.
Sources say Paswan is unhappy at being offered fewer seats than expected. Shah has, however, rubbished the speculation.
As a show of unity, Paswan and Manjhi, both of whom have been engaged in the tussle for Bihar’s Dalit crown, besides Kushwaha flanked Shah as he made the announcement on seat sharing.
Shah targeted the “crumbling” grand alliance of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and the Congress by questioning the relevance of a coalition whose head (Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav) had already walked out.
Shah also claimed the acrimony among alliance partners, especially Paswan and Manjhi, had been sorted out, which was later reiterated individually by the two. “There is no tug-of-war. There is no tension. You can see their smiling faces,” Shah said.
The BJP has allowed Manjhi’s men to contest on its symbol to ensure he doesn’t switch sides if the results do not work in party’s favour. Lalu, a key member of the grand alliance, had tried to woo Manjhi.