Amid a downturn in ties between Bihar's ruling allies, BJP chief Amit Shah reached Patna this morning on what's seen as a journey to mend fences. The ice-breaking session with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar took place this morning. After landing in Patna, Mr Shah went for breakfast with the Chief Minister, accompanied by other party leaders, at a state guest house.
But the big discussion has been reserved for tonight's dinner, where the two leaders are expected to set in motion a process to discuss seat sharing for the 2019 general elections. Before that, Mr Shah is expected to meet the leaders and workers of the state BJP unit to discuss the ground situation and hold strategy sessions.
Barely a year down their alliance last July, seat sharing has become a sore point between the two parties, each of which wants to project itself as the "big brother" in the alliance.
Last week, senior party leader KC Tyagi said the party will not ally with the BJP for elections in four states. "We aren't helping or supporting or opposing the BJP," Mr Tyagi declared while announcing the news. "We fought in Gujarat, in Nagaland, in Karnataka on limited seats... We carry the political agenda of our party," he added.
But senior BJP leaders like Giriraj Singh, who is also a Central minister, and BJP general secretary Rajendra Singh had hinted that Mr Kumar is not indispensable. Mr Singh had indicated that even without the JD(U), the BJP-led alliance was capable of contesting Bihar's 40 Lok Sabha seats and ending up winning three-fourth.
Mr Kumar has said his party will take a final call on seat sharing after seeing what the BJP has to offer.
The ties between the BJP and Mr Kumar's Janata Dal United are seen as going downhill over the recent months. Mr Kumar, who has been seeking special economic status for the state for long, has received no positive response from the Centre. The party was snubbed during the last cabinet reshuffle at the Centre. The big hurdle, though, will be seat sharing, with neither party willing to take the backseat.
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