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Lok Sabha Election 2019: Why Nitish Kumar is the 'X' factor in Bihar

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Patna, Mar 22: The stage is set for a prestige battle between two opposition alliances in Bihar. Nitish Kumar, who has earned the the sobriquet of 'Chanakya' of Bihar politics now faces the challenge of delivering Bihar to Modi at a time when he is the JD(U) president.

Nitish Kumar

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced the contours of its seat-sharing agreement for the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar on Sunday. While the BJP and Nitish's Janata Dal (United) will contest 17 seats each, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan has six.

Of the state's six seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes or Dalits, the LJP will contest three and the JD(U) two, leaving just one for the BJP, which is largely seen as a party of the upper caste, urban voter.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Grand alliance seals Bihar seat-sharing deal, RJD to contest on 20

Under Kumar's stewardship, the JD(U) will contest 17 Lok Sabha seats, a number equal to what BJP has kept for itself. The JD(U) had fared miserably in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, winning only two seats compared to BJP's 22, the bargain was no mean achievement, particularly since it required the saffron party to give up some seats it had won.

Moreover, unlike the BJP, which had to give up its claim on at least five of its sitting seats, the JD(U)retained both Nalanda and Purnea, besides securing for itself some prized ones like Munger, compelling the LJP to settle for Nawada.

Nawada was represented in the outgoing Lok Sabha by Union minister Giriraj Singh one of the fiercest critics of Kumar in the BJP and a Modi loyalist since the days when bitter rivalry between the Bihar chief minister and his Gujarat counterpart used to make headlines.

Singh, an influential upper caste Bhumihar leader, is unhappy at the prospect of having to shift to Begusarai despite the sizeable presence of his castemen in the constituency, saying he had developed an "attachment" to Nawada.

The upcoming general elections will also give an opportunity to Kumar to settle scores with friends-turned-foes Upendra Kushwaha of RLSP and HAM's Jitan Ram Manjhi, both of whom had rushed into the BJP's arms after falling out with theJD(U) boss. The two parties have walked out of the NDA and are now part of the grand alliance.

Kushwaha, who heads the RLSP, may seek re-election from Karakat, while HAM president Manjhi is eyeing Gaya. Both these seats have fallen into the JD(U)'s kitty.

Another important seat that has come the JD(U)'s way is Madhepura, offering Kumar a chance to get even with Sharad Yadav, the former president of his party who had fruitlessly dissented when the Bihar chief minister led his party out of the NDA in 2013.

Yadav, who had bitterly criticised Kumar when he realigned with the BJP, later floated the Loktantrik Janata Dal and is part of the grand alliance. He has represented Madhepura seat several times in the past.

But doubts persist over Nitish's electoral standing because of his shifts between NDA and UPA in recent years. If Nitish is able to retain his 15% vote bank, he and BJP will sail through in Bihar. If not, it will be curtains to his career.

OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)

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