- For Nitish Kumar, "respectable" seat share is nothing short of 17 seats
- The demand has sent the BJP scurrying to its other allies in Bihar
- BJP leadership doesn't think JDU deserves more than dozen seats
On Sunday, Nitish Kumar told his party leaders that a respectable seat-sharing deal had been sealed for the 2019 national polls. The Bihar Chief Minister has made it clear to BJP chief Amit Shah that "respectable" is nothing short of 17 of the state's 40 seats.
The demand has sent the BJP scurrying to its other allies in Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party and RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha, who is, by most accounts, a flight risk.
Nitish Kumar, newly armed with poll strategist turned colleague Prashant Kishor, laid out his demands at an unscheduled meeting with Amit Shah yesterday in Delhi.
The BJP leadership doesn't think Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United deserves more than a dozen seats; it won just two of the 38 seats it contested in the 2014 polls.
So Nitish Kumar has still been kept in suspense. The BJP had promised to Nitish Kumar in July that an agreement would be reached by mid-August. Over a month later, the BJP is feeling no urgency to make an offer.
BJP sources say after meeting with Nitish Kumar, Amit Shah, along with senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav, will have talks with the Paswans and Upendra Kushwaha.
Right after the meeting, Amit Shah rushed to meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley -- who is known to enjoy a good rapport with the Bihar chief minister.
Sources say after he has consulted with both allies, the BJP chief will revert on a final seat-sharing arithmetic.
But top BJP leaders are aware that Nitish Kumar won't settle for less than 15 seats, which effectively means losing Upendra Kushwaha, who is playing his cards close to his chest while making food analogies that suggest realignment.
"If milk from the Yadavs and rice from the Kushwahas are blended, we can make kheer," he said last month, hinting at talks with the opposition RJD's Lalu Yadav. But Mr Kushwaha does not want to leave the BJP-led NDA coalition just yet.
The BJP is dead against giving up any of the 21 seats it won last time; it would then have to play second fiddle to Nitish Kumar in the state.
In its first draft seat-sharing plan last month, the BJP had given itself 20 while allotting Nitish Kumar 12, the LJP six and Kushwaha's party two. The JD(U) had, at the time, termed the plan as "neither fair nor honourable".
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