The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not taken well to the seat-sharing formula floated by Janata Dal(United) vice-president Prashant Kishor for the assembly elections in Bihar next year.
Kishor had told NDTV on Sunday that seat-sharing talks could be held according to the old formula followed in 2009 when the BJP and JD(U) fought the elections in an alliance.
“The talks between the JD(U) and the BJP for the division of seats for the assembly polls next year could be held on the basis of the 1:1.4 ratio,” Kishor had said.
“While it is possible for it to be even 1:1.35 or 1:1.3, but it can’t be 1:1 since the JD(U) is the bigger party in Bihar and the elections will be fought with chief minister Nitish Kumar as the face of the alliance and therefore the basis of the discussion could be around 1:1.4 ratio and thereabouts only,” he added.
The BJP, JD(U) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar. The JD(U) and the BJP had contested on 17 seats each during the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, leaving six for the LJP.
The BJP and LJP won all seats and the JD(U) won on 16. Ever since the formula of 50: 50 worked in Lok Sabha polls, it was widely believed that the NDA partners would follow the same formula in the state.
However, Kishor’s comments have started a fresh round of war of words between the two alliance partners. The BJP’s leaders have made it clear in no uncertain terms that both the parties should contest on equal numbers of seats.
“There was no formula for 2005 and 2010 assembly polls, what is the use of this right now. It is a premature formula. Both the parties should only look at winnability factor,” a senior BJP leader, who was also part of the talks between two parties since 2005, said on condition of anonymity.
The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Gopal Narayan Singh on Monday said Kishor’s statement was “confusing” and “unsuitable”.
“Every next step is decided as per the latest situation and rules,” Singh said, referring to the equal number of seats fought by the two parties in the last general elections.
Party’s Patliputra MP Ram Kripal Yadav said a call on this will be taken by top leaders and party president will reply on this at an appropriate time.
The JD(U) leaders are supporting the “1:1.4 ratio” formula.
“Where is the doubt that Nitish Kumar is not a big leader? If somebody has floated an idea, we welcome this although it will be decided later,” said JD(U) minister Shyam Rajak.
The JD(U) and the BJP, barring 2015, have been contesting elections together since 2005. In 2005, the BJP contested on 102 seats and won 55 while the JD(U) fought on 139 and won 88 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly.
Buoyed by good governance and different development works executed in five years, both the BJP and the JD(U) won 91 and 115 seats respectively after contesting on 102 and 141 seats respectively in 2010.
However, after the JD(U) parted ways with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after Narendra Modi was made the prime ministerial candidate.
The JD(U) joined the grand alliance and won 71 out of 101 seats it contested along with the RJD and Congress in 2015. The BJP’s tally fell down to 53 seats although it contested on 157 assembly segments.
The BJP fortunes again turned in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the party won on all the 17 parliamentary seats giving it a clear edge on 99-101 assembly seats. The JD(U), which again became the part of the NDA in 2017, won on 16 Lok Sabha seats, thereby putting them in advantage in 92 assembly segments.
“If you go by that formula, the BJP should at least contest 101 to 102 seats,” said a BJP leader making it clear that a decision will be taken at a later stage.
Another BJP leader pointed out that the party had sacrificed five seats in Lok Sabha polls.
“We had 22 MPs and came to the second position on seven more seats so our claim was to be on 29 seats but we gave them an equal number of seats. Why should not that formula be implemented in the next election?” he asked.
Poll experts feel after the results of the Jharkhand assembly elections and being pushed to the wall on National Register of Citizens (NRC), the JD(U) has started using the pressure tactics rather early.
“The bargaining has started. The JD(U) is using Kishor to drive home their point as it was he who was instrumental in opposing the support extended to NRC,” DM Diwakar, an expert with the AN Sinha Institute for Social Studies, said.