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Differences Brewing in NDA, Opposition Camps Ahead of Assembly Polls in Bihar

File photo of LJP chief Chirag Paswan with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (PTI)

File photo of LJP chief Chirag Paswan with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (PTI)

It remains uncertain if the state's fractured politics will see new alliances, but all is far from well in the two rival camps, prompting some parties to explore their options, sources have said.

Increasingly bitter relations between the JD(U) and the LJP in the ruling National Democratic Alliance and differences in the opposition camp have thrown up possibilities of a political realignment in Bihar ahead of the assembly polls in the state.

It remains uncertain if the state's fractured politics will see new alliances, but all is far from well in the two rival camps, prompting some parties to explore their options, sources have said.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is peeved with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) as it believes that its due strength in the state is not being acknowledged by the ally in seat-sharing talks among the NDA partners.

While the equation between the BJP and the LJP remains fine, Kumar's party is angry over Chirag Paswan's repeated snipes at the chief minister and hints that the saffron party should look beyond him in the state.

"The LJP is overestimating its strength in Bihar, and Chirag Paswan has become more and more ambitious. It was never an ally of the JD(U). It has aligned with the BJP on and off, and the saffron party will deal with its demands, not us," a senior JD(U) leader said.

Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's party, now being led by his son Chirag, had fought on 42 of the state assembly's 243 seats in 2015 and wants a share on similar lines in the upcoming polls, a position rejected by the JD(U).

The JD(U) was in the rival camp of the RJD and the Congress in 2015.

JD(U) sources have pointed out that the LJP won only two seats in 2015, and its best show was in 2005 when the party won 29 seats while fighting on its own in the Bihar polls.

The hung verdict had led to another assembly election in a few months in which Kumar led the NDA to victory in the state for the first time, defeating Lalu Prasad's RJD. The LJP's tally was reduced to 10 seats.

The LJP on its part has noted that even the JD(U) won only two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 but was given 17 of the total 40 seats to contest in 2019 general election after re-joining the NDA following a four-year split.

Though the BJP has been working to keep its alliance partners on board, its top leaders have repeatedly put their faith in Kumar's leadership and named him as the NDA's chief ministerial candidate. This, political sources believe, limits the BJP's ability to placate the LJP.

The Paswans have been so far all praise for the BJP, and the Union minister had on Friday lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "pro-poor" policies.

All that the LJP wants is an "honourable deal" from its NDA allies in the Bihar polls, a party leader said.

A senior BJP leader, however, played down the LJP's aggressive stand, describing it as a "usual posturing" parties in an alliance to maximize their share of seats.

He noted that seat-sharing talks among the NDA partners in 2015, when it included parties of Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha besides the LJP, also involved a lot of muscle-flexing by the BJP's allies.

"All parties want to contest on maximum number of seats so that they can be in a strong position after the elections," he said.

Bihar Congress leader Akhilesh Prasad Singh had recently set off speculation with his claim that he had talked to the LJP leadership about the evolving political situation, and Pappu Yadav, a former MP with his own party, has been speaking approvingly of Chirag Paswan as a potential chief minister.

In the RJD-led opposition, some parties have shown reluctance to project Tejashwi Yadav as the coalition's chief ministerial candidate and sought a discussion among allies.

Former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has been taking potshots at the RJD leadership, has gone closer to the JD(U), sources said.

Two other members of the opposition camp, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha and Vikassheel Insaan Party's Mukesh Sahani, have also expressed reservation over the leadership issue, signalling trouble in the opposition camp.

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