Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), a key constituent of the ruling NDA, Wednesday pressed for finalisation of the coalition's seat-sharing arrangement in Bihar by month-end while making it clear it will not agree for anything less than six Lok Sabha seats and one in Rajya Sabha.
The assertion was made by LJP's state president Pashupati Kumar Paras, younger brother of the party chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a day after the party's parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan expressed dissatisfaction over no headway being made on the seat-sharing issue despite several meetings with the BJP leaders.
Paras said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has "undoubtedly" weakened in Bihar with the exit of partners like Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha.
Speaking to reporters here, Paras said Kushwaha parted ways after he ran out of patience, as BJP chief Amit Shah and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar made an announcement that their parties would contest an equal number of seats without taking into account that there were other constituents.
Ideally, all NDA partners should have sat together and arrived at a seat-sharing formula through consensus, he said, while asking what would be left for other allies following a decision by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) deciding to fight on an equal number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"Lack of clarity on the issue led to the RLSP's exit. A final decision on sharing of seats among the remaining allies must be arrived at by December 31," said Paras, who is also a member of the Nitish Kumar cabinet in the state.
He said Chirag Paswan's tweets reflected the party's sentiments and the seat-sharing formula must be timely and respectable.
Pointing out that the party had contested seven seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the state LJP chief said there was no reason why it would settle for less than that for the 2019 elections, or for six Lok Sabha seats and one in Rajya Sabha.
There has been speculation that the LJP chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan may not fight the Lok Sabha polls next year owing to bad health and leave his Hajipur (reserved) constituency for some family member and himself opt for the Upper House.
In a series of tweets, Chirag Paswan had on Tuesday cautioned the BJP against damage to the NDA in the event of the BJP's failure to arrive at a seat-sharing formula that was respectable for other allies.
His tweets have triggered speculations that the party, which was part of the Congress-led UPA for a decade before switching over to the BJP-led coalition during the 2014 polls, was bracing for changing sides yet again.
Reacting to the developments, RLSP's Upendra Kushwaha said the LJP should follow his example and leave the NDA. He alleged the BJP and Nitish Kumar in their arrogance were hell bent upon destroying the smaller parties.
State BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand, however, sought to downplay the latest outbursts from the LJP leaders saying the NDA remains intact and any delay in announcing a seat-sharing formula could be due to the top leaders of his party have been busy in assembly polls for five states. He said things will be settled amicably and in time.
JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said the tuning between all three constituents of the NDA in Bihar is perfect and there is no need for getting alarmed over the tweets. He asserted that all three parties -- JD(U), BJP and LSP -- will fight together and the NDA will win all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Senior Congress leader Prem Chandra Mishra, however, said the recent defeat of the BJP in its strongholds of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have put a question mark on the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies have become uncertain about their own prospects. The LJP's stance has to be viewed in this light, he said.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary squarely blamed Nitish Kumar for the present crisis in the NDA, saying he is like a "Brahmin" who has to be appeased at the cost of others. He said it would not come as a surprise if the LJP becomes the next casualty in the NDA.
(With inputs from agencies.)