Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar will be the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in Bihar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, party general secretary and spokesperson KC Tyagi said on Sunday. Tyagi made the announcement after a four-hour meeting among senior party leaders and Kumar in Patna, PTI reported.
The statement comes a few days before a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in Patna, and is being seen as an attempt by the Janata Dal (United) to put pressure on the BJP ahead of any future discussions on seat-sharing for the upcoming general elections.
“Our concern is to get the maximum mileage and full dividends out of his [Kumar’s] image for the NDA,” said Tyagi, according to the Hindustan Times. Another party general secretary, Pavan K Varma, said the BJP, Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party will have to approach the Lok Sabha polls under Kumar’s leadership.
The BJP leadership in Bihar also agreed to the decision. “Desh ke PM Narendra Modi hain, lekin Bihar ke neta to Nitish Kumar hain [The country’s prime minister is Narendra Modi, but the leader in Bihar is Nitish Kumar],” said Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi. “So, in Bihar, NDA will get votes in the name of Narendra Modi and work of Nitish Kumar.”
He also ruled out any difference between the allies over seat sharing. “Jab dil mil gaye, to seat kaun si badi cheej hai [When our hearts have agreed, seat-sharing is not a big deal],” he added.
The decision comes amid questions over whether Modi is losing his charm with voters. During campaigning for the 2014 General Elections, Modi was the face of NDA in every state, including Bihar. The BJP had won 22 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Besides, the JD(U)-BJP alliance in Bihar has lost two crucial bye-elections recently. On May 31, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal won the bye-election held in the Jokihat Assembly constituency in Araria district. The election was seen as a key battle for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose party had won the seat three consecutive times before this. In March, former Jokihat MLA, Sarfaraz Alam, who quit the JD(U) after the party allied with the BJP, successfully contested a Lok Sabha bye-election from Araria constituency on a Rashtriya Janata Dal ticket.
After the Jokihat defeat, Tyagi said the NDA needed to reinvent its strategy while another ally, Rastriya Lok Samta Party, flagged the lack of coordination among NDA members.