Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: Rumblings from within the Janata Dal (United) that it may do what Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal did to the Bharatiya Janata Party — but after May 16 when the Lok Sabha results come in – has got the BJP leadership worried.

But for the moment the BJP is trying to tackle the demand for two extra Lok Sabha seats in Bihar that the JD (U) has raised and three Lok Sabha seats, including Meerut, it has requested in Uttar Pradesh.

Sensing that ahead of the Lok Sabha the BJP can ill-afford to mess up with another alliance partner — after the BJD walked out of the alliance — the JD(U) leadership has let it be known that it wants changes in the old seat-sharing arrangement under which it had contested 24 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar leaving 16 for the BJP. The JD(U) wants to contest 26 seats leaving 14 to the BJP arguing that the BJP’s influence has shrunk.

A senior JD(U) leader told The Hindu that besides the seats the party contested in 2004 it wants two more constituencies – Madhubani and Kishangaj. “Each of these constituencies has a Muslim population of around 5 to 6 lakh. There is no way the BJP can win these, we have told them.” However, a BJP leader pointed out that while the BJP’s chances of winning Kishanganj were indeed dim, the party was unlikely to part with the seat as it was “crucial” in the “infiltration route” from Bangladesh and the party did not want to lose its influence there.

The battlelines between the two parties have been drawn and not only in relation to seat-sharing in Bihar. The JD(U) has demanded three constituencies in U.P. – Meerut, Badaun and Salempur.

The BJP leadership is quite unwilling to concede Meerut. After all, it has already conceded 7 Lok Sabha seats in western U.P. to its new alliance partner, the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Ajit Singh. But, it may be willing to give Badaun to the JD(U) in exchange for Aonla for which the BJP has declared Maneka Gandhi as its candidate.

The JD(U) has also asked for two Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand – Palamau, a Scheduled Caste seat, and Chatra.

As for the post-poll scenario, key BJP leaders concede that like many other regional parties in the National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance, the JD(U) seems to be working towards keeping its options open in the post-poll scenario.

In the JD(U) there is talk about Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dissolving the Assembly after the Lok Sabha election results are in and going for a fresh poll to get rid of the BJP.

“The situation post-poll could be so fluid. One cannot rule out the possibility of old friends and now foes Lalu Prasad [of the Rashtriya Janata Dal] and Nitish Kumar coming together,” said a JD(U) leader, and BJP leaders are confirming that there was a political buzz about such a situation developing.

Said a BJP leader from Bihar: “Yes, there is talk about Nitish Kumar wanting to keep all options open, including the option of joining the Congress-led UPA alliance, given certain conditions. But for now, the BJP and the JD (U) are in it together for the Lok Sabha poll.”