Unwilling to accept Nitish's leadership, LJP decides to go solo in Bihar polls; to remain with NDA at Centre

Calls from top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday morning failed to persuade LJP president Chirag Paswan who announced party parliamentary board's decision to go separate from the JD(U)-led NDA and contest 143 out of 243 assembly constituencies in Bihar.

The party, however, said it will not field candidates against the BJP nominees.

Earlier, Modi, Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chirag Paswan to enquire about the health of his father Ram Vilas Paswan who underwent heart surgery on Saturday evening.

Chirag has made it categorical that the leadership of Nitish Kumar was not acceptable to the LJP. The NDA has already announced to contest the Bihar polls under the leadership of the JD(U) chief and BJP leaders have made repeated statements to this effect.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Ram Vilas Paswan had snapped ties with the Congress just before the polls to join the NDA. In 2015, it was part of the BJP-led alliance during the assembly elections in Bihar when JD(U) was a part of 'Mahagathbandhan', also comprising the RJD and Congress.

Chirag is said to be not even on talking terms with the chief minister for the last six months. Nitish had also not responded to his letters during the lockdown, suggesting ration cards for migrant labourers and on other issues.

Chirag himself had regretted that the chief minister was ignoring him. Last week, during a press conference, Nitish had dismissed a question on Chirag Paswan.

Relations between the two leaders were strained over the last few months. Chirag on Friday had alleged that the 'Seven Resolves' (Saat Nischay) of the chief minister launched during his alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD was a fraud and all programmes were marked with corruption. There was no improvement in the condition of people in the rural areas, he said.

In the 2015 elections, LJP had contested on 43 seats, but only two of its candidates were successful and the party polled 0.82% votes.

The acrimony between the LJP and the JD(U) goes back to 2005 when the former had secured 29 seats and Paswan had said that he held the keys to the new government. The incumbent RJD had settled for 78 seats, BJP and JDU, contesting together in alliance got 39 and 55 seats respectively but short of halfway mark of 122. Nitish was sworn in as the chief minister but Paswan declined to support him, leading to the collapse of Nitish-led government in six days only.

However, in the fresh election held later that year, the JD(U)-BJP alliance emerged as the clear winner.

LJP's decision to field candidates against JD(U) nominees may be advantageous to the BJP in the long term. It will conweakente the anti-Mahagathbandhan votes for its candidates while LJP will wekaen JD(U) candidates' prospects in other seats. As the JD(U) and the BJP are contesting an equal number of seats, the latter may emerge as the bigger party in the alliance post results.

As for the LJP, the party continues to be in the BJP-led NDA at the Centre and Ram Vilas Paswan will continue to be in the Union cabinet as it has only ended the alliance in Bihar, that too only with the JD(U). Last year in neighbouring Jharkhand during the assembly elections, JDU and LJP candidates had contested against each other.

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