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How Entry of Outsiders into JD(U) Has Muddled Up BJP's Poll Arithmetic, May Fuel Bickering Within NDA

File photo of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi (PTI)

File photo of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi (PTI)

Ahead of the Bihar assembly elections, the BJP has ended up being the main victim of the defection bug much to the discomfiture of its trusted party men. It has been seen in the past that the defectors have been instantly rewarded at the cost of old guards fuelling dissension within the parties.

A conflict between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (U) over seat-sharing and selection of candidates appears imminent before the state assembly elections in Bihar scheduled in October-November.

An indication of the likely bout emanates from the tough posturing of the Bihar BJP state president and Lok Sabha MP from Bettiah Dr Sanjay Jaiswal over induction of six Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLAs by the JD(U) recently. Jaiswal categorically said that the party has enough candidates for the assembly polls and does not need outsiders.

“We have enough good candidates so we do not need outsiders for fighting the election. We are not going to promote any outsider. The BJP will fight all traditional seats in Bihar assembly polls,” said Sanjay Jaiswal, the BJP state president.

The utterances of Jaiswal hold significance as the JD (U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has recently inducted into his party fold at least six RJD legislators, who had won from the seats contested by the BJP or the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the 2015 assembly elections.

In 2015, the JD(U) and RJD had contested the elections together as part of the mahagathbandhan, while the BJP, LJP, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) headed by Jitan Ram Manjhi had contested together as part of the NDA.

In 2015, these seats were not in the JD(U) quota and fell in the RJD quota and in majority of these seats the BJP had held second position garnering substantial votes. It is indicated that some more sitting MLAs of the RJD will be inducted into the JD(U) before the polls. It is bound to create crisis of seat-sharing among the JD(U), BJP and LJP.

“The BJP has 76 lakh workers in Bihar and we are not going to put up outsiders to contest the election on BJP symbol. Our party is so strong in the state that we do not need outsiders ahead of the assembly election,” the state BJP chief said.

In 2015, the BJP had contested 157 seats, LJP 42 seats, RLSP 23 seats and HAM had got 21 seats. The NDA had not announced any chief ministerial candidate. While the BJP won from 53 seats, the LJP and RLSP won from two seats each while the HAM could win from only one seat.

The BJP garnered 93,08,015 votes, the highest among all political parties out of the 3,76,96,978 votes polled against the total 6,62,43,193 registered voters in Bihar. The HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi had contested from two seats – Gaya and Imamganj – but lost from Gaya seat.

Of the six assembly seats, which are likely to become the bone of contention, the Parsa seat has been claimed by the LJP, whose nominee Chhotelal Rai was defeated by RJD’s Chandrika Rai, who is also the father-in-law of RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav.

Given the tough posturing of LJP chief Chirag Paswan and his recent outbursts against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the LJP is unlikely to relinquish its claim on the Parsa seat. The LJP had already announced that it was ready to contest nearly 100 seats.

Similarly, in Paliganj, Jayvardhan Yadav of RJD had defeated Ram Janam Sharma of BJP. So, a clash between JDU and BJP is imminent. Jayvardhan is the grandson of former Union minister and famous Yadav caste leader of the State, late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav.

In Keoti, Faraz Fatimi, son of former Union minister M A A Fatimi had defeated Ashok Kumar Yadav of BJP. Though Ashok Yadav has been elected to Lok Sabha, the BJP is certain to stake its claim on this seat which has been its traditional bastion.

In Gaighat, Maheshwar Yadav of RJD had defeated Veena Devi of BJP. Veena is now an MP from the LJP. In Patepur, Prema Choudhary of RJD had defeated Mahendra Baitha of BJP while in Sasaram Dr Ashok Kumar had defeated Jawahar Prasad of BJP. So, a clash on these two seats cannot be ruled out.

BJP sources said that similar clash of interests with the JD(U) may ensue in Samastipur and Raxaul assembly seats. “The BJP had secured second position on 102 assembly seats while the LJP had become close second on 36 seats. In previous elections also the BJP had won from these seats. Thus, the BJP cannot compromise on seats where it finished close second in 2015,” a senior BJP leader said.

In the 2010 assembly elections, the JD(U) and BJP had contested 141 and 102 seats and won 115 and 91 seats respectively. The LJP was not part of the NDA then. In the November 2005 elections, the JD(U) and BJP had contested from 139 and 102 seats and won from 88 and 55 seats respectively.

The BJP is considering these 102 seats as its own and planning selection of candidates accordingly. Therefore, the entry of about a dozen sitting MLAs into the JD(U) has become difficult given the tough posturing of the state BJP president. “This time we will win from many such seats which we had lost in 2015 polls,” the state BJP chief said.

Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had joined the mahagathbandhan. Recently, he quit the alliance and joined hands with the JD(U). In such circumstances, the BJP will have to compromise on such seats which it had lost in 2015 assembly elections.

The BJP has ended up being the main victim of the defection bug much to the discomfiture of its trusted party men. Having fought elections together with the BJP in the past, the JD(U)’s quest for winnable candidates has become more pronounced this time. So, it is the JD(U) which is embracing ‘outsiders’ with impunity.

It has been seen in the past that the defectors have been instantly rewarded at the cost of old guards fuelling dissension within the parties. “If old guards are sidelined and party hoppers are rewarded, it becomes dangerous showing that the foundation of a building has become weaker,” a senior BJP leader said.

Post-poll calculations will also play a part in the entire exercise. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is eyeing the next term, does not want to take any chance to lag behind in the race of becoming the single largest party even while remaining in the NDA. The BJP, too, eyes power in the state and cannot afford to see its number drop significantly.

“In elections, winning ability is the main factor and that is what will determine the seats and candidates. As BJP is on a roll, many aspirants want to join the alliance. These matters will be settled amicably when the senior leaders will sit together before the polls,” said party spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel.

Disclaimer:The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal.