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Published On: Sun, Oct 4th, 2020

LJP walks out of NDA in Bihar; targets Nitish

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chiragNEW DELHI / PATNA: Bihar seems set to witness a multi-corner contest in the assembly elections as Chirag Paswan is positioning himself as the kingmaker and preparing his father Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to leave the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will not contest the upcoming Bihar elections with the BJP-led NDA due to “ideological differences” with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), the party announced on Sunday. Both LJP and JD(U) are key allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar.

“We share a strong alliance with the BJP at the national level and in Lok Sabha elections. Due to ideological differences at the state level and in the Assembly elections with the JDU, the LJP has decided to pull out of the (NDA) alliance in Bihar and fight the Assembly elections separately,” LJP national general secretary Abdul Khaliq said in a statement.
He, however, said that the LJP-BJP collaboration will remain intact even as the party severe ties with the JD(U). “After the state elections, all the candidates who win will form a BJP-LJP government and follow the path of development shown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the statement read.

The LJP will put up candidates against Nitish Kumar’s party, however, the party will not field its candidates against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Chirag Paswan’s party took the decision at a crucial meeting of its parliamentary board held in Delhi today afternoon.
The LJP, one of the key allies of the ruling NDA in Bihar, had called the meeting to decide today whether to accept the seat-sharing arrangements proposed by the BJP-led coalition or go solo in the three-phase Assembly elections, which begins from October 28.
Lok Janshakti Party’s Chirag Paswan has decided to take his efforts to unseat Nitish Kumar to the hustings, over-riding the technicality of both parties being part of the NDA.

Rajiv Ranjan, spokesperson of the Janata Dal United, said as long as the BJP-Nitish Kumar alliance remains intact, “we don’t have any confusion about getting a thumping majority”. A section of NDA leaders suggested that Chirag Paswan’s move keeping Nitish Kumar as a target for months could not have happened without the tacit support of top BJP leadership.
The LJP has cited state-level “ideological differences” as the reason for the shift and said it wants to implement the “Bihar vision document” on which it has to reached a consensus with the JD(U). “However, we have a strong alliance with the BJP and even in Bihar, we want to continue this collaboration. There is no sourness in our relations,” the party said.

The LJP’s decision comes at the end of months-long sparring with the JD(U) over a number of issues, including the state’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and Mr Kumar’s joining forces with former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader like the Paswans with an overlapping support base. Within the party, Chirag Paswan has not been shy about expressing his ambitions for the top job.
Last week, the LJP gave an ultimatum to the BJP at a meeting with party chief JP Nadda. But it did not speed up the process as desired. Earlier today, sources said under the seat sharing arrangement, the JDU will get 122 of the 243 seats, while the BJP will have 121. The BJP is expected to provide for seats for the Lok Janshakti Party from its share.
But with no decision coming from the BJP, the LJP made its decision this afternoon at a meeting in Delhi. Their decision comes at a time when party chief Ram Vilas Paswan is ailing and had a heart surgery.
A similar strategy had worked for the LJP in 2005, when the party had played a pivotal role in stopping Lalu Yadav’s RJD from winning yet another term in government. The LJP, a Congress-RJD ally at the time, had contested polls against Mr Yadav’s party only, which resulted in a hung assembly. In subsequent polls, Mr Kumar got enough seats to form his maiden government.
On Friday, several posters were seen in Patna with the slogan “Modi se bair nahi, Nitish teri khair nahi” (No issues with Modi, but Nitish, you’re done) in a bid to target the CM.

In the last few days, LJP chief Chirag has met BJP president Nadda several times. He also met Home Minister Amit Shah Thursday. However, sources in the party said the leaders didn’t reach any consensus in these meetings.
“We have always demanded that BJP should fight more seats than JD(U) since Nitish Kumar’s popularity is low and he is losing grip on the state due to mismanagement on migrant issue and corona,” said a second LJP leader who didn’t wish to be named.
“It is a win-win situation for BJP and LJP both, as BJP will get a chance to fight on more number of seats to position itself as leading partner if it performs better, and to stake claim on chief minister ship in post-poll scenarios. Secondly, candidates with upper caste base who will not find a place in BJP ticket list can fight on LJP tickets to maximise gains,” said the second leader.
In 2015 assembly election, the BJP contested on 157 seats, which will be lower (this time) in any case due to alliance with JD(U). LJP will get a chance to position Chirag as an alternative young face in state politics against Nitish Kumar, and can increase the state footprint,” said the leader.

A third LJP leader said that in politics, it’s not necessary that everything will be visible with naked eye. The party’s strategy is simple  play on anti-Nitish votes and catch pro-Modi votes on JD(U) seats. It will help both.
However, in this political arithmetic, it is yet to be seen how CM Nitish Kumar takes this proxy fight. The BJP has already announced Kumar as the NDA leader, saying the alliance will win over 200 seats.
“Tejashwi Yadav from RJD is positioning himself as a young face among youth voters but he does not have appeal to swing rest of youth, except Yadavs, due to his limitations. Chirag has more of a chance to position himself as a young aspiring leader so he has launched the ‘Naya Bihar Yuva Bihar’ campaign,” said the leader.
However, a JD(U) leader said on condition of anonymity, “He is in a hurry to fulfill his ambition. He is taking a risk in attacking Nitish Kumar, who is the most popular leader in Bihar. Most of the time, mausam vibhag (meteorological department) prediction fails, this time Chirag will feel the taste.” The leader was referring to Paswan’s reputation of traveling with the wind.
“This is the best time to expand party because of Nitish Kumar’s anti-incumbency. If we will not show courage, we will be like a fringe player in Bihar. Question before us is to become at least kingmaker if not king,” he said.
(Bureau Report in Patna ).





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