PATNA: The political churning in the Bihar unit of the NDA has yielded a new political equation.
Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, which has qualms about being led by Nitish Kumar and has deftly planted one foot within the alliance and one foot outside, was clearly told on Tuesday that Nitish was the alliance leader and would be its chief ministerial face.
Earlier in the day, there was a marathon meeting where Nitish reportedly asked the BJP leaders, who called on him, to unequivocally clarify their stand in view of Chirag Paswan's tirade against him.
Among those present were Devendra Fadnavis, BJP general secretary in-charge for Bihar, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Sanjay Jaiswal, the party’s Bihar unit chief.
Nitish was livid not just at the LJP’s aggressive posturing -- which has been essentially angling for a greater share of the electoral pie -- but at the suggestion in some quarters that certain BJP leaders were not happy with him either and firing from Chirag’s shoulder.
In view of the insistence that matters be clarified, the joint press conference, where BJP-JDU list of candidates was to be announced, got delayed for two hours.
At the press conference, Jaiswal left no room for doubt that ‘‘Nitish Kumar is our leader and he would be the next CM too’’. He added for effect: ‘‘Those who are opposed to the leadership of Nitish Kumar should leave the NDA".
In a stern warning, the party also said LJP should not use the photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in posters, banners and speeches during the campaign. The BJP will complain to the Election Commission if the warning was ignored.
As things stand, Janata Dal (United) will contest from 115 seats. It has been given 122 seats, out of which it will give seven seats to Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha, which is expected to dip into the Paswan vote bank. The BJP has been allotted 122 seats. From its quota, the BJP will allot a few seats to the Vikassheel Insaan Party.
That leaves Pawan’s LJP with very little room to manoeuvre. Either it stages a tactical retreat and accepts Nitish’s leadership or walks out of the NDA and goes solo. The other option, of course, is to have an understanding with the mahagathbandhan and wait for the post-poll scenario to unfold.
LJP, keen to widen its political footprint, has decided to field its candidates in 143 constituencies, including in the 122 seats where JDU will put up its nominees.
Meanwhile, a senior BJP leader, Rajendra Singh, who is vice-president of the party in Bihar, on Tuesday joined the LJP and announced he would contest from Dinara in Rohtas district. His claim was rejected by the BJP as the seat was allotted to JDU's Jaikumar Singh.
Rajendra Singh is a senior RSS leader and was general secretary (organisation) in the Jharkhand unit of the BJP.