Enter Nitish Kumar in NDA, But ‘Uneasy’ BJP Not Thrilled at the Prospect of Gaining Ally. Here’s Why

“No door is closed in politics. The door can be opened if needed,” said Sushil Modi about JD(U) veteran Nitish Kumar’s re-entry into the NDA fold, amid political moves from both the BJP and RJD.

While BJP national president JP Nadda summoned Bihar unit president Samrat Chowdhury for a quick meeting with him and union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi, he sent senior leader Vinod Tawde to Patna to keep an eye.

Amid negotiations with Nitish over the chief minister’s post, the BJP has called a state executive meeting over the weekend to discuss the sudden political development. Nadda has also postponed his Kerala tour to stay up to date with developments in Patna.

At the heart of it is whether Nitish will once again divorce RJD-Congress to start a political innings with the BJP. The prospect of the RJD-JD(U) government falling has caused enough tension for deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, and the BJP, too, is not even at ease about gaining an ally.

With Nitish inside the NDA, the seat-sharing arrangement for the ruling alliance at the Centre will have to be chalked out afresh.

Big, fat NDA in Bihar

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, JD(U) and LJP fought together. Back then, they had an arrangement of 17 seats each for the BJP and JDU while the remaining six were delegated to the LJP. Bihar has a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats.

This time, however, the NDA has the BJP and hopefully JD(U). Then it has Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) and, interestingly, both factions of the LJP – Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) led by MP Chirag Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP) led by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras. While the RLJP is part of the union council of ministers, the photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi affectionately greeting Chirag at an NDA meeting last year went viral.

To further complicate the math for the BJP, former ally Upendra Kushwaha is also trying to get onto the bandwagon with his party Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal, which he formed after breaking away from JD(U). He had earlier merged the RLSP with JD(U), but later differences emerged between him and Nitish.

BJP’s seat-sharing dilemma

Presuming neither the BJP nor the JD(U) would like to cede a single seat from the number it fought in the 2019 polls, 17 each will go to both parties. With 34 seats unavailable, the fight will be for the remaining six.

Manjhi started by asking for five seats last year, which came down to two by 2024. While BJP sources said they have offered only one seat – Gaya – to Manjhi’s HAM, they also agreed to send the leader to Parliament via the Rajya Sabha route.

Chirag, meanwhile, has sought six seats. While the undivided LJP led by Ram Vilas Paswan got seven seats in 2014, it received six in 2019 with an additional Rajya Sabha seat. Sources indicate that while Chirag was informally promised three seats, Nitish’s entry has changed the math.

“We can’t give three out of six seats to one party while there are three parties more to allot,” said a BJP source.

Chirag’s uncle Pashupati has sought as many seats as Chirag – six, said a BJP source. The saffron party had promised Samastipur and Nawada seats to him while the third was being discussed. Again, it was before Nitish made a volte-face.

What makes things worse for the BJP, regardless of Nitish’s entry, is that both the Paswans want to fight from Hajipur – to claim the legacy of Ram Vilas. The BJP has not promised it to either.

Former ally Kushwaha has signalled that he wants eight seats, which is way above his party’s stature, said multiple BJP leaders. But, BJP sources privy to seat-sharing talks said he has climbed down to four seats – Jahanabad, Karakat, Jhanjharpur and Sitamarhi. Pre-Nitish, the BJP was okay to give two seats to him, which may further shrink now, sources added.

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