A BJP source had said 16 Lok Sabha seats were earmarked for Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar's party today made it clear that it won't allow the BJP a numerical advantage even by one seat in Bihar in next year's Lok Sabha elections. A day after BJP sources told the media of a 16-17 deal that solved the thorny seat-sharing issue, giving Nitish Kumar most of what he wants, sources in the Janata Dal United said the party had been assured of as many seats as the larger ally.
"Whatever impression we have gathered from our party chief is that in the agreement which was finally conveyed to him, both parties will contest the same number of seats," a senior leader of Janata Dal United said.
Regarding media reports about the deal, under which JD(U) gets one less seat than the BJP, he said, "See, a week ago, everyone was saying our party won't get more than 12 seats… you will see, what we are saying is ultimately correct".
Yesterday, BJP sources had said that under a deal made in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the BJP was to get 17 of the state's 40 Lok Sabha seats. Sixteen seats were earmarked for Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan was to get six seats and Upendra Kushwaha two seats.
Scaling down the party's hopes of contesting more than 20 seats, they said, was a gesture to indicate their commitment to the alliance.
Nitish Kumar — whose party won only two seats in 2014 after a split with the BJP — had initially demanded parity on seats with the BJP, which won 22 seats. Later, his party said they want a "respectable" number of seats. That stand appears to have been recalibrated.
In September, weeks after his party turned down the BJP's first draft on seat sharing, Nitish Kumar said an "honourable agreement" has been reached and a formal announcement will be made later.
But the cold war between the two parties had not been called off and the formal announcement is yet to come. The JD(U) has made it clear that the alliance with the BJP is confined only to Bihar. The party has been busy fielding candidates elsewhere.
BJP sources had indicated that they were holding off the announcement to get smaller allies, like Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, on board. But Mr Paswan's son Chirag Paswan today said so far, no formal talks on seat sharing have been initiated.
In Patna, Chirag Paswan's uncle Kumar Paras said they expect more seats than last time. In 2014, the party had contested seven seats, but the BJP's latest informal formula gives it only six seats.
Chirag Paswan, however, amended: "In the larger benefit of the alliance, there's no doubt that all the allies will have to sacrifice some seats to accommodate Nitishji, who has his own base and popularity".