Aggressive allies throw seat-sharing challenge to BJP in UP, Bihar
Knowing that party will need every crutch to fight INDIA alliance in Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s allies are digging their heels in
The BJP may be confident of winning the Lok Sabha battle next year but its allies in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two states it wants to sweep, are proving to be bigger headache than it had bargained for.
BJP leaders insist that the party is supremely sure of doing well on its own in Uttar Pradesh, but it wants to tie up with smaller parties both to consolidate votes and to show that it too has partners sailing with it.
Bihar has turned to be tricky in the face of a formidable opposition built by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav and because its allies are not only more demanding but engaged in a political fratricide.
Knowing that it will need every crutch to overcome the opposition INDIA alliance which wants to pit one strong candidate against the BJP in every Lok Sabha constituency, the party’s allies are asserting themselves.
“There is no need for the BJP to join hands with smaller parties in Uttar Pradesh. The party is more or less self-sufficient, and the combined leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is working well in Uttar Pradesh,” explained a BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh.
“Yet, the BJP chose to align with smaller parties because they are of ornamental value. It helps to create a perception in the minds of the people that more political parties are joining the NDA,” the Lucknow-based leader told The Federal.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar hold the key to the BJP’s return to power in 2024. The BJP and its allies won 65 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh and 39 out of 40 seats in Bihar.
Of the total 303 Lok Sabha seats won by the BJP in 2019, the contribution of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar was slightly more than one-third.
“The problem for us is that we have to maintain our momentum in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” the BJP leader went on.
UP and Bihar
“The NDA won 73 seats in 2014 in Uttar Pradesh and 65 in 2019. We cannot afford to see the number come down further. That is why the BJP leadership has given us a target of 75 seats in Uttar Pradesh. We will also try to win more than 30 seats in Bihar,” he added.
The problem of seat sharing came to the fore when Sanjay Kumar Nishad tweeted that his Nishad Party was ready to contest at least 39 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh – up from a single seat it fought in 2019.
Another NDA ally, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSJ), is demanding at least two Lok Sabha seats.
“Two is the minimum number of seats SBSJ wants to contest. Ideally, we want four seats but we will not go below two,” a party leader said.
It wants to field both its leader Om Prakash Rajbhar and his son.
Watching the others assert themselves, the BJP’s decade-long partner, Apna Dal (Soneylal), which currently has two seats and is headed by union minister Anupriya Patel, wants to contest two more seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The biggest trouble for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is coming from Bihar, where two factions of the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP) are at war.
Even though home minister Amit Shah has tried to resolve the row by talking to union minister Pashupati Kumar Paras and his rival Chirag Paswan, there is no solution in sight.
The BJP cannot afford to annoy either Paras or Paswan because both are leaders of the Dalit community. The BJP is making efforts to string together an alliance of Dalits and OBCs in Bihar to defeat the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
“When we joined NDA in July, we were told we would get six Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat. It is the same deal the BJP gave to our leader, Ram Vilas Paswan. So, we are very clear on the number of seats we will contest. We won’t comment about the number of seats to be contested by Paras and his faction,” said AK Bajpai, a senior leader of the LJSP who is with Cirag Paswan. The faction of LJSP with Paswan is called Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas).
The faction with Paras has told the BJP that it wants to contest all five of its sitting seats including Hajipur. Both Paras and Paswan want to fight the same six seats, and neither is ready to compromise.
Another Dalit leader, Jitan Ram Manjhi, a former chief minister of Bihar and chief of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), is also demanding a couple seats in Bihar but the BJP is likely to offer him only one seat.
Political analysts believe the smaller parties in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are using pressure tactics to snatch more seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
“When dealing with alliance partners, the BJP is in a better situation in Uttar Pradesh. I don’t think it will like to compromise much. The situation is very different in Bihar, where the BJP will be more accommodating because of the combined strength of Nitish and Lalu Yadav,” said Ashutosh Kumar, a political science professor at Panjab University.