Bihar assembly polls: BJP, allies set to wrap up seat-sharing talks

NEW DELHI/PATNA: BJP and its allies are likely to wrap up seat-sharing talks soon, with the party expected to contest around 160-165 seats while Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Ramvilas Paswan could get 30-35 seats and 20-25 seats could go to Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), leaving the remaining seats to former CM Jiten Manjhi.​

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The numbers are expected to be finalized soon as the initial claims put forward by various NDA constituents are whittled down in the course of negotiations. The apportioning of seats seems to have fallen in place following the BJP’s firm stance on matching claims to actual electoral presence based on previous assembly and the 2014 Lok Sabha results.

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BJP chief Amit Shah has held consultations with allies, and other senior leaders have emphasized that with the tough electoral battle on hand, it was essential to settle seat-sharing without much rancour. The popular response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four packed ‘Parivartan’ rallies has also helped BJP’s bargaining position and encouraged the alliance partners to consider the possibility of a big victory.

Disagreeing with the perception in some quarters that BJP has taken the “my way or highway” mode, former MP Shivanand Tiwari said seat negotiations had their own protocol and some delays were inevitable and nothing much should be read into this. Aware that the race for Bihar is likely to be close, BJP leaders have attempted to work out a fine balance based on the caste representation of its allies.

Even previously, despite the JD(U) and BJP having been partners for long, seat-sharing always saw some tough bargaining with the regional outfit often winning concessions.

In the current elections, though the core vote belongs to the BJP, allies are bringing incremental – but crucial – votes needed to take on the OBC-led alliance of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar with Congress as the third partner.

BJP leaders have been tough without being rude in the prolonged negotiations, possibly to tire out allies. HAM (S) is a small force, but is an important “mahadalit” addition to the NDA. On his own, Manjhi may struggle but along with Paswan, he creates a significant inroad into the Dalit vote.

More or less the same holds true for Kushwaha. The BJP calculation, sources said, is to leverage its allies to claim that it has formed a truly socially inclusive formation. If these forces contest independently, they might be seen to cut into a “non-BJP” vote. But BJP needs all the support it can gain to counter the headstart a Yadav-Muslim combination provides to the “secular” alliance.

Not surprisingly, Kushwaha, whose party initially said the BJP should field candidates in only 102 constituencies and leave the remaining 141 seats for allies, climbed down on Thursday with Kushwaha going on record to say he had authorized PM Modi and Amit Shah to take a call on how several seats the RLSP should contest.

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