All is well that ends well, be it family or politics. A picture perfect ending will always say ….And they lived happily ever after. But in politics, it all works if the equation works.
When Amit Shah, Ram Vilas Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and a host of other leaders belonging to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), gathered to make the big seat sharing announcement at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Monday, they made a picture perfect pose and looked like a unified happy family.
Though subdued murmurs of discontent among tier two leaders of the alliance partners were still there, but moments of tough negotiations and bargains were over. It was time to be content with what the leadership of each of the alliance partners had settled for.
The BJP, which so far played second fiddle in Bihar politics, had assumed a new big brother role – the party will contest 160 seats, a number the BJP leaders had been quoting for long. Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP will contest on 40 seats, Upendra kushwaha’s LJSP will contest on 23 and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM will fight on 20 seats (another few HAM leaders will get to fight on BJP symbol).
Interestingly, in the outgoing assembly none of the BJP’s partners had an MLA who was elected on that party’s ticket. The BJP, in 2010 assembly elections that it had contested with JD(U), had won 94 seats out of 101 seats. Paswan’s LJP had won three seats but later they all joined Nitish Kumar’s bandwagon JD(U).
Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi were both part of the then JD(U). Kushwaha formed his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party in 2013 and Manjhi formed his Hindustani Awam Morcha in 2014. Manjhi, however, had managed to engineer split in the JD(U) when he was forced to exit from the post of chief minister and used certain legal provisions to ensure 15 MLAs on his side don’t face disqualification.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah’s dispensation in BJP is to keep up pressure to add every single seat on their party’s side. The BJP has learnt its lessons from the past, 2005 and 2010 assembly elections, when the then BJP leadership “conceded far too much to Nitish Kumar”, as some partymen say.
Moreover, Modi continues to be the proven vote catcher for his own party as well as for his allies. The allies bring larger social coalition on table for the NDA, which could also challenge Nitish-Lalu-Congres Mahagathbandhan’s social coalition arithmetical superiority.
The BJP has so far played its cards well – containing allies from speaking out of turn in public over seat sharing formula. Today after the seat sharing announcement was made by Amit Shah on Monday, the BJP provided separate space to all three alliance partner leaders – Paswan, Manjhi and Kushwaha – at BJP party headquarters for an informal chat with the media.
With announcement of seat sharing in NDA, battle of wits between the leaders of the grand alliance (mahagathbandhan) and NDA has entered another level. The RJD-JD(U) is trying provoke Manjhi over the number of seats that he got. Even though the BJP has begun the process of candidate selection, it would like to announce the candidates after RJD and JD(U) have announced theirs.