Patna: After months of prickly negotiations, Nitish Kumar and BJP president Amit Shah announced that they would go half-and-half on seat sharing in Bihar for the 2019 national election. But less than two hours after their joint press conference, one of their allies was in a closed door meeting with the opposition camp’s Tejashwi Yadav.
Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha didn’t bother to hide his meeting with Tejashwi, who tweeted the photos.
Earlier in the evening, Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah had dismissed talk of upset allies as they announced that their parties, the BJP and Janata Dal United (JDU), would fight on equal number of seats for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 in Bihar. “Other allies will also get a respectable seat share,” said Amit Shah, adding, “Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan will remain with us.”
All parties, said the BJP chief, have agreed to pare down ambitions to accommodate the JDU, which had left the coalition before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but came back to the fold last year. “When a new partner joins, you have to sacrifice… There will be a reduction in seats for everyone,” said Amit Shah.
Not long after this, Upendra Kushwaha delivered photographic evidence that he may not be quite on board.
He followed that up by saying: “Nothing is final on seat sharing. Amit Shah ji also said that we will finalise it in a few days. Meeting with Tejashwi Yadav was just a coincidence.”
Mr Kushwaha, a union minister and leader of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, has repeatedly denied quitting the BJP-led alliance but has dropped plenty of hints to keep everyone guessing.
In August, he came up with a kheer analogy that left everyone speculating that he wanted to switch sides.
But sources say the BJP may have planned for Mr Kushwaha’s possible flight while sealing the deal. Many in the BJP’s Bihar unit and JDU believe that he will be no big loss in the elections. Both parties are confident that Mr Kushwaha’s support base, mainly the non-Yadav backward castes, are unlikely to ditch an alliance where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar are together.
Earlier this week, the JDU had made it clear that it won’t allow the BJP a numerical advantage even by one seat, striking down claims by BJP sources that they had reached a 16-17 seat deal. Nitish Kumar — whose party won only two seats in 2014 after a split with the BJP – had long demanded parity on seats with the BJP, which won 22 seats.