- Nitish Kumar will meet BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi this week
- Mr Kumar finds himself playing peacemaker between LJP and BJP
- Sources say he will tell the BJP to honour the commitment to LJP
Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan met BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi on Thursday in an attempt to tackle a growing conflict between the allies just months before the general election. The hour-long meeting, which was also attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, remained inconclusive, according to reports.
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leaders have signaled their resentment with the BJP over a seat-sharing pact in Bihar for the election due by May. Officially, Ram Vilas Paswan denied it.
"There is no animosity, whatever is our decision, will be taken by Chirag," said Mr Paswan, referring to his son, who has been more direct and pointed in his barbs at the BJP.
Chirag Paswan, according to sources, had written a letter to Mr Jaitley after the state elections results were announced on December 11 and asked him to list the benefits of demonetisation so that he can "explain" them to people.
The Paswans are reportedly upset, not about their share of seats to contest in 40-seat Bihar, but about one Rajya Sabha seat promised to them by the BJP months ago.
In September, when Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah announced their "50:50" seat-sharing and Upendra Kushwaha was still part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Paswans were offered four seats and one Rajya Sabha seat in Assam. It led to the impression that Ram Vilas Paswan won't contest the elections and will be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha or upper house of parliament. As Upendra Kushwaha carped about his share being sliced to accommodate Nitish Kumar, the Paswans were in a better place, or so they felt.
After Upendra Kushwaha's exit earlier this month, the BJP told the Paswans that they could now have six - not four - seats to contest. But the Rajya Sabha offer was missing, which became the bottomline as far as the father-son duo was concerned.
In a disappointing situation, hope stirred once again for the Paswans when the BJP lost three big states to the Congress. They realized that now they are in a stronger position to flex their muscles.
Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, has backed Mr Paswan and reportedly intends to tell the BJP leadership to placate him and do what it can to keep him on board. He is arriving in Delhi on Friday for talks with Amit Shah.
Chirag Paswan has warned of "consequences" if "seat-sharing decisions are not made in time". In tweets, Paswan Junior also reminded the BJP that it has lost allies like Upendra Kushwaha and Telugu Desam Party (TDP)'s N Chandrababu Naidu and so should "address concerns of the remaining allies in a timely and proper fashion".
Nitish Kumar, say sources, wants the BJP to "honour the commitment to Ram Vilas Paswan" as losing him would effectively mean conceding Bihar to the opposition coalition or "mahagatbandhan".
The Bihar Chief Minister's mission is summed up in a tweet by his top aide and strategist Prashant Kishor: "Joint efforts and collective strength of existing and potential NDA allies is key to the success in upcoming 2019 elections. All key constituents of the coalition must work towards this."
With inputs from PTI