After weeks of cold war with the BJP, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar got his wish - a "respectable" chunk of Bihar's 40 Lok Sabha seats, almost equal to the larger ally -- for next year's general elections. Mr Kumar will get 16 seats, just one less than the BJP, sources have told NDTV. Sources said the deal was sealed in Delhi on the second week of September between Prime Minister Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and the Bihar Chief Minister, who managed to keep up a steady pressure on the larger ally. The other NDA allies in the state, Ram Vilas Paswan will get five seats and Upendra Kushwaha will get two seats.
A formal announcement is expected this week - the BJP had been waiting for a nod from the other allies. There has also been the question of a contingency plan in case Upendra Kushwaha, seen as a restive ally, decides to walk out. The two seats earmarked for him will be evenly divided between the BJP and the JD(U), sources said.
Every party in the NDA in the state has had to scale down on their existing number of seats to accommodate Nitish Kumar, whose party won only two seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has taken the biggest hit - yielding five of the 22 seats it currently holds. Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha's parties also have to lose one seat each from the number they currently have in Parliament.
Mr Kumar has been unyielding - sending back the BJP to the drawing board when they came up with a draft plan two months ago, giving themselves a lion's share of 22 seats. His leaders had held out for what they called a more "equitable" distribution.
Senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav had hastened to assure that the formula was by no means final. "Nothing has been finalised, once it is, you will come to know," he had said.
The BJP is explaining the current formula with one used by the Grand Alliance in the 2015 assembly elections.
Under it, Nitish Kumar had taken a very generous route to keep the fledgling alliance intact. Despite his party having 122 seats in the state assembly, he had contested 101 seats, giving an equal number to Lalu Yadav, whose party had only 22 lawmakers. The Congress, which had just four lawmakers, got 43 seats.
The other psychological advantage for the BJP is that this is the first time since 1996 when it contested its first parliamentary election along with Nitish Kumar's party, the regional powerhouse, is contesting fewer than 20 seats. The BJP has got a numerical advantage, even if it is by one seat.