Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had laid out an extensive spread for his breakfast and dinner meetings with BJP chief Amit Shah. On dinner table, the Mr Kumar had laid out a fair mix of vegetarian delicacies from Bihar and Gujarat, Mr Shah’s home state. But food was the last thing on their minds as the two party bosses, accompanied by senior leaders of their respective parties, sat down for dinner.
Ties between the two main partners in Bihar’s coalition government have been on a slide for months. And it has only got worse in recent weeks, with leaders from both sides flexing muscles to build the ground to seek a bigger share of seats to field candidates in next year’s general elections.
The discussion continued post dinner too, shifting to another room in Nitish Kumar’s official residence in state capital Patna. It is here that the two leaders had their one-on-one meeting for about 20 minutes that is seen as an indication that the reconciliation efforts were working.
Sources told NDTV that this was important, particularly since Nitish Kumar hasn’t been known to share a great relationship with Amit Shah. They have hardly known each other.
The first time Janata Dal United chief had met the BJP’s master strategist was in August last year. It was a courtesy call. Nitish Kumar had just dumped the grand alliance that included Lalu Yadav’s party and the Congress and tied up with BJP. That meeting took place in Delhi when Nitish Kumar came to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Kumar had then returned with an offer to join the NDA.
But his party has been upset that the central government was seen to be less than enthusiastic to reward the Nitish Kumar-led government for teaming up with the BJP last July. Bihar hasn’t got the special package Nitish Kumar had been eyeing and is perceived to have been given a raw deal when it came to floods for flood relief too.
It is not clear if some of this could still change.
But a JDU leader told NDTV that there appeared to be better appreciation in the BJP about Nitish Kumar’s stand on the ticket distribution after yesterday’s meetings. The feedback that Mr Shah received during the day from his party on contesting the Lok Sabha elections along with Nitish Kumar’s party could have helped.
It hadn’t also gone unnoticed in the JDU camp how Amit Shah had, to their surprise, showered unequivocal wholesome praise at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s track record in governance.
A BJP leader said Nitish Kumar’s party has conveyed that it could not settle for anything less than 15 of the 40 seats. This means that the BJP, which won the biggest share of the Lok Sabha seats in 2014, would have to give up its claim on quite some seats to accommodate Nitish Kumar’s JDU.
Nitish Kumar’s party had won only two seats in the 2014 elections when the JDU and the BJP contested the election separately. The NDA, in contrast, had cornered a whopping 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats; 22 by the BJP alone.