BJP President Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar interact with the media at the former’s residence in New Delhi. (PTI) 

BJP, JD(U) To Fight Equal Number Of Lok Sabha Seats In Bihar

Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah today announced that his party and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) will contest equal number of Lok Sabha seats in the state. This is being seen as a big boost to Kumar who had been insisting on parity with the saffron party.

Joined by Kumar, Shah told reporters that an announcement on the number of seats both parties, besides two other allies—Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP and Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP—will contest in 2019, will be announced in two-three days.

The announcement followed a meeting Kumar had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the latter's residence earlier in the day.

It marks a climb down by the BJP, which had contested 30 of the state's 40 seats in the 2014 general elections and won 22, while its two other allies, LJP and RLSP, had won six and three seats respectively out of seven and three seats that they contested.

Sources in the National Democratic Alliance, which includes the BJP and its partners, said that the BJP and the JD(U) may contest 16 seats each, with six and two to be left for parties led by Paswan and Kushwaha respectively.

Shah made it clear that the number of seats of all NDA parties in Bihar will come down to accommodate the Janata Dal (United), which had joined the alliance last year after severing ties with the Congress and the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The JD(U) had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on its own.

To a question about whether Kushwaha, whose equation with Kumar is far from cordial, will remain a part of the NDA, Shah answered in affirmative and asserted that the alliance will do better than the last polls when it had won 31 seats. "All four parties will remain part of the NDA."

Kumar said talks with two other allies are in the last stage and an announcement about the exact number of seats will be made soon. The JD(U) had won only two seats in 2014, and the BJP's decision to cede many of its winning seats to give it an equal weightage underscores Kumar's indispensability to it against the RJD-led opposition.

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Since the JD(U) joined hands with the BJP, the regional party had been asserting its senior status in the state citing Kumar's leadership and its better show than the saffron party in the 2015 assembly polls. Many BJP leaders were of the view that Kumar was no longer the same force while the BJP had emerged much stronger, a claim which also strained their ties before intervention by the top BJP brass repaired the damage.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when Kumar was a BJP ally the JD(U) had contested 25 seats and the former 15. Shah said Kumar, Paswan and BJP leader and Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi will lead the alliance's campaign in the state.

He accused the opposition of running a disinformation campaign against the NDA, and claimed rival parties had no base in Bihar. Kumar said he also discussed drought conditions in his state and its development issues with Modi.