New Delhi: Seat sharing will not be a contentious issue for NDA partners in Bihar polls, BJP ally RLSP said on Sunday as it backed the alliance's decision not to project a chief ministerial face, insisting it went for the "best option" to contest under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.
RLSP chief and Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha also claimed that with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and NCP walking out of the grand alliance, BJP-led NDA was bound to benefit.
Downplaying his party's stand that BJP contest only 102 of the state's 243 assembly seats leaving the rest for allies, Kushwaha said,"There was a demand, which we had aired in past. Now the talks are on. So it won't be appropriate to talk on this subject outside.
"I have no intention to bargain. Our only purpose is that there should be an NDA government in Bihar. We are working in this direction. We are not trying to do any pressure politics or make a bargain," Kushwaha, Minister of State for HRD told PTI in an interview, rubbishing reports of strain in NDA over seat sharing as "propaganda" by rivals.
Asked whether NDA did the right thing in plunging the poll arena without announcing its chief ministerial candidate when the rival secular alliance had a seasoned campaigner in Nitish Kumar, he said,"It was the best option."
"Opting to fight the election under Modi's leadership was the best option and we went for that. There is no challenge... Nitish is not a challenge for NDA today," he said.
Kushwaha, whose party had a few months back demanded that he be declared NDA's Chief Ministerial candidate, however ducked questions on the issue.
When asked whether he expects the BJP to remain open to making even a non-BJP leader the Chief Minister, he said," Right now this is not the subject in the election. NDA has decided that election in Bihar will be fought under the leadership of Narendra Modi. This issue will be looked at when the time for it comes."
Kushwaha also said BJP had "no say" in running the government when it was an alliance partner of JD(U).
"Remaining in alliance and heading the government are two different things. Everyone knows all policy decisions were being taken by Nitish Kumar. Only Nitish's diktat ran. BJP was in the government just in name and not in reality," he said.
Kushwaha, a prominent leader of the Koiri community, which constitutes around five per cent of the electorate, trashed suggestions in the media that the Samajwadi Party walked out of the secular alliance in Bihar at BJP's bidding and said it was the result of the "arrogance" of Nitish Kumar.
He said the exit of Sharad Pawar's NCP and the decision of the Left to contest separately would benefit the NDA.
"Naturally, if Mulayam Singh and NCP have come out and Left did not go with them, it will benefit us. They tried to stop the division of anti-NDA votes. They failed. So, naturally, this will benefit the NDA," he said.
Kushwaha said after the exit of SP and NCP, the secular alliance should removed the prefix "maha" (grand) as the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combination can no longer be called a "grand alliance".
The Union Minister said the assembly polls in Bihar will be centred around development and social justice.
"Both themes will matter in Bihar polls. But People, especially the youth, are more focused on development this time.
"Development will be a big issue, which we also want. Social equations will have a role in the election and, from that point of view as well, the NDA is very balanced," he said, rubbishing claims that with Mandal heavyweights like Lalu and Nitish arrayed against it, the BJP-led alliance would not be able to have a substantial share in the OBC pie.
Asked whether the coming together of Nitish and Lalu, who had contested the Lok Sabha polls separately, will not benefit their alliance, Kushwaha said,"Politics does no go like simple mathematics that if two entities got 10 and 15 votes separately, they will get 25 when they are together.
"Votes that Nitish Kumar got then were basically anti-Lalu votes. Today he is with Lalu. So all those who voted for him for being anti-Lalu, will now not vote for him," he said.