Explained: Why Despite Loud Denials, The Buzz In Bihar About Secret BJP-LJP Pact Persists
JD(U) would take BJP at face value for now, and its leaders point to the joint rallies to be addressed by Prime Minister Modi and Nitish Kumar.
Geography favours assertions of an inalienable alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) (JD (U)). But estranged sibling Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) says distance doesn't matter.
The BJP and the JD (U)--major partners in Bihar’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which LJP walked away from last month--both have their offices on Patna’s Veerchand Patel Path. The physical distance between the two offices is just about 450 metres.
The LJP, despite deciding to contest the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state on its own, has been claiming proximity to the BJP and is asserting that it’s fight is against the JD(U). LJP leaders have also been hinting at a covert understanding with the BJP.
The BJP, for the sake of preserving its alliance with the JD(U), has been strenuously rejecting suggestions of any such understanding. Both BJP and JD(U) leaders sitting in their respective party offices point to their physical proximity.
But LJP leaders at the party headquarters at Shahid Pir Ali Khan Marg, which is about five kilometers away from the BJP office, lightheartedly say that distances don’t matter.
And that is perhaps why the buzz in Bihar about a secret deal or understanding between the BJP and the LJP refuses to die down.
Union Minister and BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said in Patna on Friday: “We have absolutely no ties with the LJP and we are opposed to this politics of creating confusion. The LJP is a vote-splitter”.
The JD(U) says it will take the BJP’s assertions at face value. “Top leaders of the BJP, including the party’s national president J.P.Nadda, have said that the BJP is firmly with the JD(U). The BJP’s star campaigners, including Prime Minister Modi, will campaign in Bihar in favour of our candidates. We have no reason to doubt the BJP,” said JD(U) Lok Sabha MP Santosh Kumar.
LJP leaders let out a sly smile at all the assertions by the BJP and JD(U). LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari says, tongue in cheek, that pictures speak a thousand words. And then he points to photos of LJP chief Chirag Paswan with Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president Nadda and other top BJP leaders.
These photos, which attest to warmth and bonhomie between Chirag Paswan and the BJP top leadership, adorn the walls of the LJP office and also on some election campaign posters printed by the party.
Chirag Paswan and his party colleagues have been making it a point to sing praises of Modi. “We are with the BJP at the Centre. Our fight is with the JD(U) in Bihar over ideological differences and the insults heaped on our founder (the late Ram Vilas Paswan) by Nitish Kumar. We look up to the leadership of Narendra Modiji,” says Paswan.
In their election rallies, too, Paswan and other LJP leaders swear by Modi’s leadership. “Modiji is the best Prime Minister India has had and the LJP is committed to strengthening his hands,” says LJP leader and candidate Biresh Paswan.
Many LJP candidates, in the course of their door-to-door campaigns and in small street-corner meetings, take Modi’s name and even ask for votes in his name.
“The next government in Bihar will be a BJP-LJP government. There is no doubt about that. That’s what we are telling the people and that’s why our candidates take Modiji’s name,” explains Chirag Paswan.
The BJP looks askance at such statements and terms them as “mischievous”.
“The LJP is trying to confuse voters. It’s game plan is mischievous. But all its plans will be defeated and voters will get over any confusion in their minds when they see Modiji and Nitishji (JD(U) chief and chief minister Nitish Kumar) addressing rallies jointly,” said BJP state general secretary Devesh Kumar.
The BJP has announced Modi’s election campaign schedule: the Prime Minister will address rallies at Sasaram, Gaya and Bhagalpur on 23 October. Nitish Kumar will be present at those rallies.
JD(U) leader Chandreshwar Singh says that since the LJP has considerable influence in Samastipur, his party requested a rally by Modi there. “The PM will address a rally there on 1 November. This shows that there is no secret understanding between the BJP and LJP,” he said.
“The BJP and JD(U) are allies in Bihar. The LJP has walked away from the alliance and is not part of the NDA in Bihar,” said senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav. He points out that the LJP is also putting up candidates against the BJP’s nominees in a few constituencies.
But all these denials do not quell rumours and talks of an understanding between the BJP and LJP.
Ravindra Kumar, a former teacher of political science at Patna University says there are reasons for the rumours being rife.
“The BJP has said that the LJP is not part of the NDA in Bihar. But it has not expelled the LJP from the alliance at the national level despite JD(U) demanding that repeatedly. That in itself raises suspicion of an understanding between the two parties,” he reasoned.
Senior advocate Shailendra Mahato says that while BJP leaders may be disassociating their party from the LJP, they have desisted from criticising the LJP strongly.
“If the LJP is not part of the NDA and is a rival, why is the BJP soft on the party? The BJP comes out strongly against other rivals like RJD and Congress, but refrains from criticising the LJP strongly. Why so?” wonders Mahato.
The BJP defends itself by saying it that hasn’t come out as strongly against the LJP due to its deference to its founder Ram Vilas Paswan.
“As campaigning heats up now, so will the attacks by rivals on each other. Wait and watch,” says BJP’s Devesh Kumar.
Privately, even the JD(U) is a tad skeptical of the BJP’s claims of innocence and suspects that Chirag Paswan is being encouraged by a section of the BJP’s top leadership.
But the party would prefer to go by the BJP’s official stance for now, and wait for the results to be declared on 10 November.
“Everything will be clear after that and all speculations and rumours will be put to rest then,” says JD(U) Lok Sabha MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh.
But for now, rumours and whispers of a BJP-LJP ‘secret’ deal that draws no little suspicion between the two prominent occupants of Veerchand Patel Path, and smiles and winks from another prominent occupant at Shahid Pir Ali Khan Marg, rule the roost.
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