Nitish Kumar-Amit Shah Meeting Isn’t Just About Seat-Sharing for 2019
It is being said the Janata Dal (United), along with other smaller NDA allies in the state, is vying to get a respectable quota amongst the NDA allies.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (left) and BJP chief Amit Shah greet each other in Patna. (PTI File photo)
For a politician with a limited caste base, Nitish Kumar has displayed remarkable survival instincts to remain relevant in Bihar politics for almost three decades now. Despite occasional wobbling on the political balance beam, the Bihar Chief Minister has managed to make a safe landing on most occasions. The last somersault, marking the return to the NDA fold, however, has restricted his space to manoeuvre both in the state and the national politics.
The growing uneasiness in the Janata Dal (United) camp ahead of the next general elections is palpable. It is being said the party, along with other smaller NDA allies in the state, is vying to get a respectable quota amongst the NDA allies.
With the BJP, along with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party and Upendra Kushwaha’s RSLP, already holding 30 seats, it would be a challenge to accommodate JD(U) in the 40 seats up for grabs.
But is the seat allocation the real contention between Nitish Kumar and the BJP? Or does the nagging anxiety in the JD(U) extend beyond the nitty-gritty of seat sharing for 2019?
For Nitish Kumar the return to the NDA fold is a political equivalence of burial of Prime Ministerial ambitions. Unless of course there is a situation where the NDA allies are in a position to impose a non-BJP leader to lead the coalition. Possibility of that happening in 2019 looks remote.
For Nitish thus, the issue here is not the general election. Of course his party would want to contest respectable number of seats. But the primary concern remains 2020 Assembly polls.
The JD(U) existence and relevance from here onward depends on its performance in 2020 and whether it is able to retain power in Bihar, and what are the terms of its coalition with the BJP.
Nitish has seen the BJP’s growing ambition and footprint. The BJP of the yore worked on an unwritten agreement with its allies. As the coalition leader it conceded more space to the allies in state. In lieu, the party got to contest more seats in the Lok Sabha polls.
But not anymore. The spectre of Shiv Sena — the BJP’s oldest ally in the NDA— is a prime example of changing political dynamics.
Which is why the JD(U) is looking for some assurance from the BJP for the 2020 polls.
The JD(U) demand that Nitish be made the face of the alliance in Bihar and this is not confined to the Lok Sabha elections. It perhaps is looking for some guarantee from the BJP that Nitish will be the CM face of the NDA in the next Assembly polls.
The series of meetings in Patna are just the optics. No party would decide or commit on seat allocation nine months before the elections.
On Nitish being the CM face, much would depend on the outcome of the 2019 elections.
In politics, there are no free lunches.
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