The tussle over seat sharing between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal United (JDU) in Bihar witnessed a new development on Tuesday when JDU made it clear that the NDA will have to ask for votes on the performance of Nitish Kumar government in the state. JDU spokesman Ajay Alok said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be the NDA's face in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but the alliance will have to seek votes in Bihar on the basis of the Nitish Kumar government's performance.
"When it comes to seeking votes in Bihar, the performance of Nitish Kumar will play a decisive role in the electoral success of the coalition," he said.
The JDUleader said the party's only contention is "jiskaa kaam uska daam (the one who performs should get his due)", indicating his party's demand for a respectable share of seats for the next general elections.
Bihar has a total of 40 Lok Sabha seats, though JDU could win only two seats in 2014 when it was not part of the alliance.
Earlier in the day, another NDA member from the state, LJP's Parliamentary Board chief and MP Chirag Paswan said that there was no confusion in the ruling alliance with regard to who is going to be the face of the coalition and the next Lok Sabha polls will be contested under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. Paswan, however, added that seat-sharing arrangement is important when a coalition of different parties has to put up a fight and it would be better if a decision in this regard is taken soon.
Demands for better coordination with allies have been raised by partners in the BJP-led coalition in Bihar in the aftermath of the some alliance partners' poor show in a number of recent by-elections.
Alok also clarified that when the JDU is called "the big brother in Bihar", it refers to the fact that the party has larger number of MLAs and that it had won more seats while fighting in alliance with the BJP in the past.
After a high-level meeting of the JDU on Sunday, the party's national general secretary Pavan Varma had called Nitish Kumar the face of NDA in Bihar, triggering speculations about the future move of the Chief Minister, who has often been viewed by some supporters as a a prime minister material.
While the issue is dominating political discourse, Nitish Kumar himself had on Monday declined to comment over who will be the 'face' of the NDA in the state when Lok Sabha polls are held next year.
"This is a special occasion when I would like to see happiness on all faces. Please do not ask about any other face right now," Kumar quipped in response to queries by reporters on the sidelines of Iftar party thrown by the CM at his residence.
Earlier on Monday, Deputy CM and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi had said Nitish Kumar is the ruling alliance' leader in the state and the NDA will seek votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the name of the JDU chief and that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's works.
Meanwhile, former Bihar BJP president and state minister Mangal Pandey said they accept that Nitish Kumar was their "elder brother", but it was also a fact that Narendra Modi was the elder brother of Nitish Kumar.
Kumar had snapped ties with the BJP in 2013 following differences over projection of Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. He, however, returned to NDA last year after walking out of the Grand Alliance which included RJD and the Congress.
Seat-sharing among NDA partners -- BJP, JDU, LJP and RLSP of Union minister Upendra Kushwaha -- is expected to be a difficult task as the grouping minus JDU had won 31 out of a total of 40 in 2014 Parliamentary elections. Kumar whose party had fought alone at that time could manage to win only two seats.
While BJP alone had won 22 seats in the last general election, LJP of Union minister Ramvilas Paswan had won six and RLSP 3. Among others, the JDU got two, RJD won four, Congress got two and NCP won one seat.
Significantly, the JDU on Tuesday also held a meeting of party workers on Patna , attended among others by Kumar who is also the party's national president, where his close aide and Rajya Sabha MP RCP Singh made a fervent appeal to young activists to "fan out in all corners of Bihar and start apprising the common people of the work being done by our government in the state".
(With PTI inputs)