Differences between NDA’s two Dalit allies hold up seat-sharing

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) Differences between the NDA’s two big Dalit leaders — Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP and Jitan Ram Manjhi of the HAM — has held up finalisation of seat-sharing for the alliance in Bihar which goes to polls next month.

BJP president Amit Shah has asked Lok Janshakti Party chief Paswan and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) president Manjhi to iron out their differences to show a united face of the National Democratic Alliance.

Union minister Ananth Kumar, who is election in-charge of Bihar, held meetings with Paswan and Manjhi separately at his official residence here on Wednesday and conveyed Shah’s message to them.

The meetings were also attended by BJP general secretary in-charge of Bihar Bhupendra Yadav.

The meetings were held against the backdrop of a war of words between Manjhi and Paswan, after the HAM president questioned the LJP chief’s status as a leader of Dalits, and charged him with practising dynasty politics.

Sources said the main tussle between the two leaders was about five legislators who had defected from the Janata Dal-United to Paswan’s LJP and eventually went with Manjhi when he broke away from Nitish Kumar’s JD-U.

Manjhi is adamant on giving tickets to all defecting legislators whereas Paswan is opposing it.

Manjhi says he has 13 legislators while Paswan has none, and therefore he has a bigger claim to tickets.

Sources said the LJP has conveyed its message to the BJP leadership that even if tickets are given to these MLAs, the LJP will put up candidates against them.

However, Manjhi on Wednesday tried to tone down the differences after meeting BJP leaders.

“Paswan-ji is like a big brother… bickering takes place among brothers,” Manjhi told reporters.

LJP leader and Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan also said Manjhi was like a family member.

“Manjhi-ji is like a member of our family and we enjoy good relationship with each other. I don’t know why he has given such a statement, but one thing is very clear that no one can question the politics of Ram Vilas Paswan,” Chirag Paswan told media persons.

According to sources, Manjhi has also asked for an equal number of seats as the LJP.

The sources told IANS that in a day or two, NDA leaders will meet in Patna to finalise the seat-sharing formula.

The BJP has decided to fight at least 170 seats on its own and distribute 73 seats among its allies.

Polls to the 243-member Bihar assembly will be held in five phases starting on October 12 and ending on November 5. Counting of votes will take place on November 8.

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