LJP dumps Nitish, to go solo

| | New Delhi
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LJP dumps Nitish, to go solo

Monday, 05 October 2020 | Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi

LJP dumps Nitish, to go solo

LJP to fight against JD(U) candidates, but remains part of NDA

The ambition of LJP chief Chirag Paswan to emerge as a major player in Bihar may change the political landscape of the State as the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) on Sunday decided to go it alone in the Assembly polls starting month-end.

"Due to ideological differences with the Janata Dal (United), a member of the alliance at the national level and in the Assembly polls, the LJP has decided to fight the elections in Bihar separately from the alliance," a party statement said after its parliamentary board meeting chaired by Chirag.

The decision is seen as a "surgical strike" on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar since the LJP will field its candidate against every single JD(U) candidate while contesting close to 140 seats in the 243-seat State Assembly contest.

The LJP said it will remain part of the NDA and its winning candidates will help form a BJP-led Government in Bihar. “We will not accept Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister at any cost," said an LJP leader.

The move will give better bargaining power to the BJP post-elections and may adversely impact its relationship with the BJP if Ram Vilas Paswan were to continue as a Union Minister in the Cabinet. Ram Vilas has undergone heart surgery in the national Capital and will remain hospitalised for a few weeks. Sources said the LJP will remain part of the NDA at the Centre and Ram Vilas will retain his position in the Union Cabinet.

In the resolution, the LJP said it will not fight the election under Kumar's leadership of the ruling alliance in the State, but insisted its MLAs will work to strengthen the hand of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The meeting was chaired by its president Chirag.

A section of the JD(U) leaders suspect that Chirag's decision may not have been possible without tacit support of the BJP. "How can Chirag dare to do this without the support of the BJP? It's clear they want to remove Kumar post-elections," said a JD(U) leader.

Chirag's decision will throw open interesting possibilities after the elections in case the BJP gets more number of seats than the JD(U). It is expected that since Kumar is facing serious anti-incumbency his strike rate will be much lower than the BJP. The presence of LJP candidate will also harm the prospects of JD(U) candidates. The LJP is likely to field a number of JD(U) rebels and strategically utilise caste factors to inflict maximum damage on the JD(U) candidates. In such a scenario, Nitish may struggle to retain his chair post-elections even if the NDA were to form a Government in the State. "Given the situation, the JD(U) will be far behind the BJP, and that will open interesting possibilities," said a BJP leader from Bihar. However, he warned that the confusion among the cadre of the BJP and the JD(U) and distrust at every level could also hurt the prospects of the alliance and may help RJD-led Mahagathbandhan on several seats.

In 2015, the LJP had contested 42 seats and won two. The JD(U) was then part of the Opposition alliance which decisively defeated the NDA.

Chirag sent an unmistakable message on Saturday about his future move when he posted a message on a social media, saying, "I am proud that I got an opportunity to work as an MP with a Prime Minister whose skillful leadership is known across the world.

Taking inspiration from PM Modi, the Lok Janshakti Party prepared the 'Bihar First, Bihari First Vision Document 2020' with the suggestion of four lakh Biharis so that Bihar and Bihari can be brought to the forefront. I not only hope but believe that you (PM Modi) will give your blessings to bring Bihar at the forefront and help return its lost identity and glory so that all my candidates can strengthen the hands of respected Prime Minister."

Chirag has held several rounds of meeting with top BJP leadership including Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda.

Now that the LJP is out of the way, Janata Dal-United (JDU) and BJP are likely to contest 119 seats each and leave five seats for Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha.

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