Fault lines are opening up in Bihar’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of assembly elections, with coalition partner Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, threatening to field candidates of its own. The party said it will contest 143 seats, including those against ally Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), and demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead the alliance in the state.
The NDA in Bihar under chief minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) has been facing tough questions about reverse migration, unemployment and the management of covid-19. LJP has also questioned if it is a good idea to hold assembly elections amid floods and the pandemic.
“We have decided to ready a list of candidates on 143 seats where we have groundwork. This will not include any seat where the BJP wins or contests. After that, the ball is in the court of our party president who will decide on the final alliance call. We have been part of NDA longer than other allies and our electoral plan does not interfere with that of BJP in any way,” said Sanjay Saraf, national spokesperson of LJP after an internal meeting on Monday chaired by party president Chirag Paswan.
Kumar, now in his third term at the head of the state government, has been NDA’s chief ministerial face every time the BJP and JD(U) have contested together.
“For 15 years, Nitish Kumar has been in power and has led the state. Maybe it is time to change the chief minister. Why can’t someone from BJP become chief minister of Bihar? We have covid-19 and the state government has failed to meet the challenge.We are in alliance but reserve the right to raise questions in a democracy,” said an LJP leader who is part of the parliamentary board.
Senior BJP leaders said there was threat to the alliance. “We have started seat-sharing talks and that is why LJP leaders are making such statements. They want greater share in the seat-sharing formula, but it is also true that relations between JD(U) and LJP are not as good as they used to be. LJP leaders have several complaints against Kumar and the JD(U),” said a senior BJP leader.