Sulking over National Democratic Alliance allies Hindustani Awam Morcha and RLSP having got a "better deal" under the seat sharing formula for Bihar polls announced on Monday, the Lok Janshakti Party called truce after a string of meetings with top Bharatiya Janaya Partu leaders but insisted "there is no smoke without fire".
Notwithstanding claims of an amicable seat sharing arrangement having been reached among National Democratic Alliance partners for the assembly polls, discontent was brewing in Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP over allotment of 40 seats to it.
LJP sources said there was a feeling in the party that HAM of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and RLSP of Union minister Upendra Kushwaha had got a "better deal", which was disproportionate to their political clout in the state.
BJP chief Amit Shah had announced a seat-sharing formula for Bihar assembly elections under which the alliance spearhead will contest 160 of the state's 243 seats, LJP 40, RLSP 23 and HAM 20.
"There was no anger, but discontent as there was a difference between the seat-sharing formula we were told about earlier and what was announced. So we were taken aback.
"We were not angry but definitely there were concerns in the party. We were shocked. There is no smoke without fire," LJP Parliamentary Board Chairman Chirag Paswan.
Chirag, a Lok Sabha MP and son of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who had a midnight meeting with Amit Shah to iron out the differences, said the BJP chief told him there are certain "compulsions in coalition dharma" and that he will try to accommodate the concerns of the LJP "as much as possible".
"We have apprised the BJP chief about our concerns. We are happy that our concerns have been honoured and we are moving towards a solution," Chirag said.
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also called on the LJP chief in the morning after which he downplayed the reports of continued differences, saying the NDA accords due respect to suggestions of Paswan.
"Ram Vilas Paswanji is a leader of stature," he said, recalling that leaders of all NDA allies had on Monday said they would work together to ensure the victory of the ruling alliance in Bihar assembly polls.
"There was no such demand (about more seats)....Nobody said any such thing (when Shah announced the seat sharing pact)," he said when asked whether the LJP was angry as it wanted more seats.
Ram Vilas Paswan, however, refused to speak on the issue, saying he does not talk to the media about such things and left it to his son to clear the air. Insisting that the alliance is intact, Chirag said his party has nothing against Kushwaha's RLSP or Manjhi's HAM getting more seats and described them as "family".
"There is no reason -- number of seats or anything else -- due to which the LJP would part ways with the BJP. There is no question of any dispute with Manjhiji as his party cannot be given seats under any formula as he had neither contested Lok Sabha nor state assembly polls in past.
"We are happy with whatever seats he has got. Our concern was that the LJP should also have got seats on the basis of the formula under which RLSP got 23 seats," he said. He also replied in the negative when asked whether some of the LJP candidates could be fielded on BJP tickets as is being done in the case of Manjhi's HAM.
Asked whether the LJP was not informed beforehand about the apportionment of seats ahead of the announcement, he said, "No we were not informed. But we had not even asked for it."
According to LJP sources, before HAM joined the NDA, the proposal from BJP was that it would contest 75 per cent of the state's 243 assembly seats and the rest would go to LJP and RLSP. Another proposal mooted by the BJP was that the LJP and RLSP would get six assembly seats for every Lok Sabha seat contested by them in 2014. Under the arrangement, LJP, which has contested seven LS seats, would have got 42 and Kushwaha's RLSP 18.
When the decision to include HAM into the NDA fold was taken, it was decided that the new entrant will get 12 seats to contest in the assembly polls, LJP sources said. Accordingly, it was decided that the BJP will spare nine seats from its quota for Manjhi's party, LJP two and RLSP one.
Under that arrangement, the LJP would have been allotted 40 seats, RLSP 17 and HAM 12, they said.
LJP has also objected to some present and former Janata Dal-United MLAs, who had deserted Paswan's party in the past, contesting on HAM tickets. A former Bihar LJP president Narendra Singh, who had split the party in 2005, is among them.
"Yes, we have our objections to some names. Yes, the reservations remain. We have written to the BJP chief regarding it. As long as the issue is not resolved after discussions, the reservations remain," Chirag said when asked if LJP still had reservations about their contesting on HAM tickets in the upcoming polls.
Image: Lok Janshakti Party was allotted 40 seats. Photograph: @chiragpaswan/Twitter