The BJP and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United will contest and win all 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar, BJP chief Amit Shah said in Patna today amid growing tension between the two parties. The ice-breaking session took place this morning, during breakfast at a state guest house attended by both leaders.
The BJP chief’s visit — a first for Mr Shah since Nitish Kumar ended Grand Alliance and partnered with the BJP — is seen as an effort to reach out to the disgruntled ally. The two leaders will meet again for dinner, where they are expected to set in motion a process to discuss seat sharing.
Over the recent months, state leaders over both parties have issued pointed statements about seat sharing for the 2019 elections. Each party wants to project itself as the “big brother” in the alliance and contest the larger number of seats. Last week, the Chief Minister said his party will take a final call on seat sharing after seeing what the BJP has to offer, triggering speculation about a possible split ahead of the elections.
Today, in his address to the party workers, Mr Shah said the BJP will contest next parliamentary elections together with Nitish Kumar. “All speculation in this regard — about differences and infighting over seat sharing — is unfounded and nothing of that sort will happen,” Mr Shah said. “You can continue to speculate but we will contest together and win all the 40 seats,” he added.
Mr Shah was meeting party leaders and workers to discuss the ground situation and hold strategy session before tonight’s dinner.
After the 45-minute breakfast meeting this morning, the two leaders posed for the cameras, smiling and chatting. They were accompanied by Bihar Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and state BJP chief Nityanand Rai.
The speculation of a rift between Nitish Kumar and the BJP had intensified as the Chief Minister dialled RJD Leader Lalu Yadav. The leaders of the state Congress, part of the Grand Alliance and now and RJD ally, hinted the party could consider taking Mr Kumar back into fold if he breaks away from the BJP.
Mr Kumar later scotched the speculation, denying any rift with the BJP and said he had called up Lalu Yadav only to inquire about his heath after he underwent an operation.