LJP MP Chirag Paswan
LJP MP Chirag Paswan

Telephonic calls from PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday morning failed to dissuade LJP president Chirag Paswan, who has decided to snap ties with the JD-U led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

But even as Pawan had cocked a snook at Nitish, he wants to stay aligned with the BJP.

On the ground, this means that the LJP will field candidates against Kumar's party in the ensuing Assembly elections, but not against the BJP; also, "all the candidates who win will form a BJP-LJP government", the party said after the meeting.

Chirag has made it clear that Nitish’s leadership was not acceptable to them. But this stand is at variance with that of the BJP leaders who, in their statements and speeches, have repeatedly said that Nitish is the chief ministerial face of the alliance during the elections. (However, there is a section within the NDA which nurtures the belief that Chirag has the tacit support of the top BJP leadership.)

Chirag has been not even on talking terms with Nitish for the last six months; they have slugged it out over a number of issues, including the state's handling of the coronavirus crisis and ration cards for migrants; the last nail in the coffin was Kumar joining hands with former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, yet another Dalit leader, who dip into the same vote bank.

The LJP also wanted an early division of seats but there was no response from the BJP. Despite the LJP repeatedly making it clear that it would contest against the JDU unless given a fair share of seats, the BJP preferred to remain silent. Finally, the LJP gave an ultimatum to the BJP at a meeting with party chief JP Nadda. But even that did not have the desired result.

On Sunday, it was decided that the JDU will get 122 of the 243 seats, while the BJP will have 121. The BJP is expected to provide for seats for the Lok Janshakti Party from within its share. The LJP has upped the ante with its stand to contest against the JD-U, hoping to force the BJP’s hand.

Incidentally, all this has transpired when party chief Ram Vilas Paswan is ailing and has had a heart surgery.

There will be no impact on the future of Ram Vilas Paswan and he would continue in the Union cabinet as the alliance in Bihar has come unstuck only with the JD-U. In neighbouring Jharkhand, during the last assembly elections, JDU and LJP candidates had contested against each other.

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Free Press Journal