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Chirag Paswan’s LJP has cited state-level “ideological differences” as the reason for the shift.

Chandigarh:

Lok Janshakti Party’s Chirag Paswan has decided to take his efforts to unseat Nitish Kumar to the hustings, over-riding the technicality of both parties being part of the NDA. At a meeting in Delhi today, the LJP decided to field candidates against Mr Kumar’s ruling Janata Dal United. No candidates will be fielded against the BJP and “all the candidates who win will form a BJP-LJP government”, the party said after the meeting.  

Rajiv Ranjan, spokesperson of the Janata Dal United, said as long as the BJP-Nitish Kumar alliance remains intact, “we don’t have any confusion about getting a thumping majority”. A section of NDA leaders suggested that Chirag Paswan’s move — keeping Nitish Kumar as a target for months — could not have happened without the tacit support of top BJP leadership.

The LJP has cited state-level “ideological differences” as the reason for the shift and said it wants to implement the “Bihar vision document” on which it has ot reached a consensus with the JD(U).

“However, we have a strong alliance with the BJP and even in Bihar, we want to continue this collaboration. There is no sourness in our relations,” the party said.

The LJP’s decision comes at the end of months-long sparring with the JD(U) over a number of issues, including the state’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and Mr Kumar’s joining forces with former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader like the Paswans with an overlapping support base. Within the party, Chirag Paswan has not been shy about expressing his ambitions for the top job.

The LJP had also demanded an early decision on seats division. But there has been no response from the BJP. Despite the LJP repeatedly making it clear that it would contest against JD(U) unless given a fair share of seats, the BJP has so far been silent on the issue.

Last week, the LJP gave an ultimatum to the BJP at a meeting with party chief JP Nadda. But it did not speed up the process as desired.

Earlier today, sources said under the seat sharing arrangement, the JDU will get 122 of the 243 seats, while the BJP will have 121. The BJP is expected to provide for seats for the Lok Janshakti Party from its share.

But with no decision coming from the BJP, the LJP made its decision this afternoon at a meeting in Delhi. Their decision comes at a time when party chief Ram Vilas Paswan is ailing and had a heart surgery.

Sources said Chirag Paswan felt hurt when Nitish Kumar never inquired about his father’s health, which senior BJP leaders like Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi did.  

A similar strategy had worked for the LJP in 2005, when the party had played a pivotal role in stopping Lalu Yadav’s RJD from winning yet another term in government. The LJP, a Congress-RJD ally at the time, had contested polls against Mr Yadav’s party only, which resulted in a hung assembly. In subsequent polls, Mr Kumar got enough seats to form his maiden government.

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