Bihar’s ruling alliance under strain over seat share

March 6th, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyPatna, March 6 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “has decided” to contest 18 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in the forthcoming general elections, while its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has announced it will leave 14 seats for the BJP. The tussle is bringing the state’s ruling combine under strain.
“The BJP has decided to contest 18 seats, two more than it contested in last Lok Sabha elections,” spokesperson of the party’s state unit Vinod Narayan Jha told IANS here.

The JD-U had announced late Wednesday night that it would contest 26 seats, leaving the rest to the BJP.

In the last general elections in 2004, the JD-U had contested 24 seats and the BJP 16.

Jha wondered how the JD-U could decide that BJP would contest only 14 seats. “Last month, the BJP had staked its claim to 21 seats including the 16 seats contested last time,” he said.

He said the party also plans to contest the Muzaffarpur seat, if veteran JD-U leader George Fernandes is not fielded from there, as BJP had left the seat last time because Fernandes was the candidate.

Another senior BJP leader, who is also a minister in the Nitish Kumar-led state government, said that it was unfortunate that JD-U was violating the alliance “dharma” time and again over the last three years. “But this time the BJP will not compromise. After all we are a national party with more at stake,” he said.

JD-U state president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh said late Wednesday that his party would contest 26 seats in view of the “winnability” factor.

“We had already handed over a list of parliamentary constituencies to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and are expecting a reply soon,” said Singh, who is considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

He had said the party would name its candidates “in a day or two”.

“Last month the party had staked claim to contest 28 seats but later reduced it to 26 seats not to harm interests of the ruling alliance with BJP,” another senior JD-U leader said.

However, BJP leaders including party MPs and ministers in the Nitish Kumar government were angry with the JD-U move to go public with its decision before the matter was resolved between them.

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