Patna/Nagpur: A murmured resentment has now taken full form – politician Ram Vilas Paswan’s party has announced “we were shocked” with how the BJP has divided seats between itself and its allies for the election in Bihar.
“Our cadres expressed their surprise, we were not given what we had been told,” said Mr Paswan’s son, Chirag, a senior leader of the LJP or Lok Janshakti Party. Mr Paswan was quick to underscore that the alliance “remains united” and that his party is not upset about the role being assigned to another partner, Jitan Ram Manjhi.
The BJP has traditionally been supported by upper caste voters in Bihar. For this election, where it hopes to displace Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister, it has collaborated with Mr Paswan and Mr Manjhi who are hefty Dalit leaders with competing claims of popularity. Mr Manjhi was yesterday assigned 20 seats after he rejected a smaller portion earlier. Mr Paswan was given 40. In earlier negotiations, Mr Manjhi had reportedly pointed out that Mr Paswan is being over-compensated because he did not win a single seat in the last Bihar election.
The BJP has kept 160 seats for itself, while allocating 23 to Upendra Kushwaha, a leader of the powerful Kushwaha community.
The BJP and its allies are taking on the trio of Nitish Kumar, who wants a third term as Chief Minister, the Congress and Lalu Prasad’s party.
Mr Manjhi, belonging to the most backward caste of Dalits or Mahadalits, was a leader of Mr Kumar’s party and was made Chief Minister after Mr Kumar took responsibility for his party’s disastrous result of the parliamentary elections in Bihar. Mr Manjhi was expelled for refusing to make way for Mr Kumar’s return to office in February and then founded his own party.