Though the Janata Dal (United) performed miserably in the Gujarat Assembly elections, having lost all the 38 seats it had contested in the western state, the overall Gujarat results are a reason to comfort Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party.
The BJP may have won Gujarat polls, but the fact that it has barely managed a majority with a reduced tally of 99 seats, has an assuring effect on the saffron party’s partner in Bihar. A section of JD (U) leaders in Patna privately argue that the saffron party will now be all the more amenable to JD (U) in Bihar.
“Their reduced tally in a state that’s considered the saffron citadel will make the BJP realise why they need Nitish Kumar in Bihar to score well in future Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. It will only increase our bargaining power,” said a senior JD (U) leader.
The assumption holds crucial significance, as of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, the BJP and its allies already had 31 sitting MPs before Nitish Kumar joined them in July this year. No wonder, there are intense speculations about how BJP will accommodate Nitish Kumar and its other allies in the 2019 general election.
In 2014, the BJP-led NDA (BJP 22 seats, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP 6 and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP 3) had bagged 31 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar. On the other hand, Lalu Prasad’s RJD had won 4, while Congress and JD (U) bagged 2 each. The NCP had won one seat.
Besides its allies, the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls will be under pressure to leave a few seats for Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM (Secular), a party that did not exist when general elections were last held in 2014. But the JD (U) leaders now expect the BJP to cut down on their sitting Lok Sabha seats to accommodate candidates from the Nitish Kumar’s party, as Bihar Chief Minister, given his tall stature, cannot accept an insignificant share of seats.
The JD (U)’s perceived claim for higher share of Lok Sabha seats from Bihar also gains traction in the backdrop of poor showing of LJP, RLSP and HAM in the 2015 Assembly polls when Nitish Kumar’s led grand alliance had a massive victory in Bihar.
Now, with the Gujarat election results, where the BJP won but by a reduced margin, the JD (U) hopes that their strength to bargain hard for a respectable number of seats in the Lok Sabha polls has increased.”
The BJP cannot afford to contest Bihar without having Nitish on its side,” a JD (U) leader said. A top BJP leader in Bihar has also admitted that the party was ready to drop a few sitting NDA MPs to accommodate Nitish Kumar’s candidates. JD (U) leaders also argue that BJP’s moderate performance in Gujarat Assembly poll will make the saffron leadership see Bihar in “proper prospective”.
Incidentally, BJP in its latest alliance with JD (U) has been seen as more assertive than what it was when Nitish had an alliance with them from 1996 to 2013.