BJP Placates One Ally in Bihar, Another Allegedly Upset

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BJP President Amit Shah with Jitan Ram Manjhi and Ramvilas Paswan during a press conference regarding Bihar elections, in New Delhi on Monday. (Press Trust of India photo)


New Delhi:  Hours after publicly celebrating with sweets a seat-sharing deal for Bihar that followed intense negotiations, the BJP was still left with an ally that was less than pleased.

Jitan Ram Manjhi was able to persuade the BJP to part with more seats than the senior partner had brought to the table. But Ram Vilas Paswan is allegedly upset at the greater share given to Mr Manjhi.

After multiple meetings, BJP chief Amit Shah announced how his party and its three regional allies will divide seats in Bihar: The BJP will contest 160 of the 243 seats, Mr Paswan's Lok Jan Shakti Party will contest 40, Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party will contest 23 seats and Jitan Ram Manhji's newly minted Hindustani Awaam Morcha (Secular) also called HAM, will contest 20.
 

Mr Manjhi, who briefly served as Bihar chief minister a few months ago as a member of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, was adamant that his party must be given as many seats to contest as Mr Paswan's party. He argued that he has greater influence among the deprived Dalits and Mahadalits, a sizeable chunk of voters in Bihar, where caste and community have played a major role in deciding elections.

Asked who was a bigger leader between him and Mr Paswan, Mr Manjhi said today: "It is for the people to decide."

Mr Shah said a few people from Mr Manjhi's party will also contest as BJP candidates, rejecting reports of squabbles over seats. "There is no tug of war in the NDA over seat sharing," he said, flanked by a smiling Mr Manjhi and Mr Paswan.

Sources say Mr Paswan, a minister, feels Mr Manjhi has been given too much importance.

The BJP has rationed seats among its allies in a way that it can contest enough to have a chance at winning a majority, at 122 seats, on its own.

With a rainbow coalition that combines its upper caste supporters with the backward caste vote-bank of its allies, the BJP takes on an alliance led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is seeking a third term.

Mr Shah said that the BJP's coalition will decide who will be chief minister only after the elections, which will be held in five phases beginning next month.


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