New Delhi: After months of speculation, BJP president Amit Shah on Friday announced that the party has reached a seat sharing agreement with Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal (United) in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections next year.
The BJP chief said the two parties would contest the polls from equal number of seats, in what is being seen as a big boost to Kumar who had been insisting on a parity with the saffron party. The exact number, Shah said, would be revealed after two or three days.
The announcement came after the Bihar chief minister met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah at each of their residences in the capital for more than an hour.
Sources tell News18 that both BJP and JD(U) would contest from 17 seats each out of the 40 on offer, leaving six for the two other NDA allies in the state. Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has been offered four seats and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP would be left with the remaining two.
Shah during the announcement asserted that the four allies would remain together, but there are already murmurs to point to otherwise.
"Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan will remain with us. When a new ally has joined us, there will be a reduction in seat share for everyone," Shah told reporters.
But just hours later, the LJP signaled that it would want at least five seats in its kitty, in addition to a Rajya Sabha berth for party president Paswan.
Kushwaha, on the other hand, triggered speculation he would exit the alliance by meeting RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar.
News18 had reported on Tuesday that JD(U) had negotiated a 'good deal' with the BJP on the seat sharing agreement, as it has managed to get the saffron party to climb down from its earlier taken position of "big brother" in the state.
The agreement is being seen as a political victory for the JD(U) as BJP had won 22 out of 29 seats it had contested from the state in 2014, while Kumar had little bargaining power after he walked out of the grand alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress last year.
Analysts say that credit for bringing the two parties to a compromise primarily goes to poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who had joined Nitish Kumar's party last month and had taken a lead in backroom talks with the BJP top brass.
The JD(U) had won only two seats in 2014, and the BJP's decision to cede many of its winning seats to give it an equal weightage underscores Kumar's indispensability to it against the RJD-led opposition.
Since the JD(U) joined hands with the BJP, the regional party had been asserting its senior status in the state citing Kumar's leadership and its better show than the saffron party in the 2015 assembly polls.
Many BJP leaders were of the view that Kumar was no longer the same force while the BJP had emerged much stronger, a claim which also strained their ties before intervention by the top BJP brass repaired the damage.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when Kumar was a BJP ally the JD(U) had contested 25 seats and the former 15. Shah said Kumar, Paswan and BJP leader and Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi will lead the alliance's campaign in the state.