Chirag Paswan, the leader of Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), has made the decision to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This announcement was made by BJP national president JP Nadda after he met Chirag Paswan in Delhi, warmly welcoming him into the "NDA family."
Prior to this announcement, Paswan had positive discussions on alliance-related issues with BJP's Home Minister Amit Shah.
Union Minister Nityanand Rai, a senior BJP leader from Bihar, had also met Chirag Paswan twice earlier.
The timing of this development is noteworthy, coming a day before the ruling NDA meeting. Notably, the LJP (Ram Vilas) is already in alliance with the BJP at the Centre and holds a seat in the Lok Sabha.
However, Chirag Paswan has sought clarity from the BJP regarding the allocation of Lok Sabha and assembly seats in Bihar before formalizing their alliance, according to sources within the LJP (R).
The issue of Hajipur seat
Chirag Paswan has firmly stated that his party will contest the Hajipur Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar, despite the ongoing dispute with his uncle, Pashupati Kumar Paras, who also seeks the same seat.
Chirag had said that he or his mother, Reena Paswan, were looking to contest from Hajipur.
Addressing the allegations made by Union Minister Pashupati Kumar Paras against him over the Hajipur seat, Chirag Paswan, who is currently an MP from Jamui, expressed respect for his uncle and elder, refraining from responding in a negative manner.
The Hajipur constituency holds significant importance as Chirag's father Ram Vilas Paswan represented it nine times, the last being from 2014 to 2019.
Pashupati Kumar Paras became the Hajipur MP in 2019 and was inducted into the Union Cabinet following Ram Vilas Paswan's demise and the split in the party.
Paras, who firmly rejected any possibility of uniting the party factions, has also made it clear that he is not willing to compromise on the matter of Hajipur.
Paras asserted to reporters, "In the jungle, there is only one lion. My brother (Ram Vilas) used to tell me frequently that he trusted me more than his own son. I am the true inheritor of his political legacy."
The seats and ministries
As for the number of seats his party would contest in the upcoming Bihar Lok Sabha elections next year, Chirag Paswan mentioned that the details would be revealed in due course.
However, reports suggest that he has put forth a demand for six Lok Sabha seats and a Rajya Sabha seat, which mirrors the arrangement that existed in 2019 when the unified Lok Janshakti Party was intact before the disputes between the uncle-nephew duo led to the party's division.
Ram Vilas Paswan was a Cabinet Minister in the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, holding the Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution portfolio until his passing in 2020.
On the topic of joining the Union Cabinet, Chirag Paswan emphasized that holding a ministerial position was not his top priority, acknowledging it as a significant responsibility.
He mentioned that he observed his father's role as a Cabinet Minister and expressed contentment with the BJP honoring his late father in that manner.
Chirag Paswan clarified that there were no pre-existing arrangements with the BJP regarding ministries.
The other parties
Among the NDA allies is the Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal, led by former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha. The exact number of seats they are aiming for is currently unclear.
Back in 2014, Kushwaha's party, in its previous incarnation as the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, won in all three seats it contested.
However, this time, Kushwaha might have less bargaining power due to the BJP having five potential allies.
The negotiations between parties in Bihar are also influenced by the caste of the leaders and their support bases. Kushwaha, belonging to a particular community with the same name, may face an additional obstacle.
Recently, the BJP appointed Samrat Choudhary, also from the Kushwaha community, as its state president. How the BJP manages the presence of two leaders from the same community remains to be seen.
Former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi's party, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), holds influence in the Magadh region but failed to secure any seats in the last polls. The party has not yet specified the number of seats it is seeking this time.
The Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), led by Economically Backward Caste (EBC) Mallah leader Mukesh Sahani, is reportedly looking to contest in two seats.
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