Patna, Oct 6 (PTI) Ending days of intense speculation, the NDA on Tuesday announced its seat-sharing formula for Bihar assembly polls under which JD(U) will contest on 122 seats and BJP 121 out of a total of 243 seats.
BJP backed to the hilt Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as its leader in the state and rebuffed a rebellious Chirag Paswan, while acknowledging his LJP as an ally 'at the Centre'.
At a press conference which was attended by top leaders of the JD(U) headed by Kumar and the BJP, it was made clear that 'only those who accept the chief ministers leadership will be deemed to be a part of the NDA in Bihar'.
The two parties have settled for a formula wherein each constituent gets almost an equal number of seats and misgivings about the BJP changing its mind post-polls in the event of a better strike rate than the JD(U) were summarily dispelled.
'We have agreed to a formula under which the JD(U) has got 122 seats and the remaining 121 have gone to the BJP.
'The JD(U) will part with seven from its quota to accommodate HAM. The BJP will accommodate Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), the new entrant in the NDA, Kumar said.
In the outgoing assembly, RJD was the largest party with 73 MLAs followed by JD(U) 69, BJP (54), Congress (23), CPI-ML (3), LJP (2), HAM and AIMIM of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi one each and Independent (5). A total of 12 seats are vacant.
Incidentally,Hindustani Awam Morcha,led by former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, had on the previous day made public the names of candidates for the seven seats it will fight.
Manjhi himself will be seeking re-election from Imamganj (reserved SC) seat in Gaya district.
VIP, floated a couple of years ago by former Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahni, was with the opposition Grand Alliance till last week.
Sahni announced an abrupt exit in protest against 'back- stabbing' by RJD, which helms the opposition coalition, and its de facto leader Tejashwi Yadav.
His entry into the NDA followed his visit to New Delhi over the weekend during which he is said to have been in talks with top leaders of the BJP.
The crowded press conference was held nearly two hours after a marathon meeting held at the Chief Ministers official residence which was attended by top leaders of the BJP, including its national general secretary in-charge for the state Bhupendra Yadav, election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis and state president Sanjay Jaiswal.
After the meeting was over, Jaiswal appeared at a media centre set up by the party at a city hotel to give a soundbite, less than a minute long, wherein he reaffirmed the NDAs full support to Nitish Kumar.
Notably, the saffron partys cryptic silence over the belligerence of LJP chief Chirag Paswan, who had been taking potshots at the JD(U) chief for quite some time and openly revolted against him a couple of days ago, is said to have raised suspicions in the JD(U) camp.
The BJP, on its part, is said to have grown uncomfortable with Paswans talk of helping formation of a government headed by the saffron party besides his insistence on using the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and slogans seeking to drive a wedge between BJP and JD(U).
The saffron party is also said to have been riled by a development earlier in the day when Rajendra Singh, a senior BJP leader from Bihar with deep roots in the Sangh Parivar, was inducted by Chirag into the LJP at New Delhi.
Expressing rejoice over the development, Chirag had announced that Singh will be fielded from Dinara constituency in Rohtas district, from where the JD(U) has fielded sitting MLA and minister Jai Kumar Singh.
Kumar, as well as Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Sanjay Jaiswal both of whom spoke on the BJPs behalf expressed their fondness for Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan who had founded the LJP, but sought to make light of his sons antics.
'Did Ram Vilas Paswan become a Rajya Sabha member without the JD(U)s support?' asked Kumar in response to a query about Chirags allegation that the Chief Ministers party never gave allies their due.
'I believe in doing my job. I wish to take forward the growth trajectory that began under my stewardship 15 years ago.....I do not have anything to say about inconsequential things which some people may utter to derive some pleasure', Kumar said dismissively, seeking to attach little importance to Chirags agenda of Bihar First Bihari First.
The 37-year-old LJP president has sought to pit his agenda against 'saat nishchay' (seven resolves) programme of the Chief Minister.
Journalists present at the press conference also posed a question about whether the BJP will insist on having its own Chief Minister if it performed better than the JD(U) in the October-November polls.
Speculations in this regard have grown strong since the Lok Sabha polls of last year wherein both BJP and JD(U) contested 17 seats each and the former won all but the latter settled with all but one.
'Please be rest assured. Nitish Kumar will be our Chief Minister irrespective of which party gets how many seats', Sushil Kumar Modi said in reply to the question.
Asked whether the LJP would cease to be a part of the NDA following the developments in Bihar, Sushil Modi replied cryptically 'as Sanjay Jaiswal has already said, LJP is our ally at the Centre'. PTI DR NAC SNS SNS