The Lok Janshakti Party unveiled on Saturday its strategy for the assembly elections in Bihar, scheduled later this year, wherein it hopes to play a significant role despite the shadow of mightier alliance partners -- the JD(U) and the BJP.
The party's national president Chirag Paswan, who recently took the mantle from his father and LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan, announced at a press conference here that he would embark on a state-wide 'Bihar First' yatra - with the promise of pulling the state out of its long history of backwardness.
He also sought to clear speculations in a section of the media that the party, which has six members in the Lok Sabha, may insist on more than 40 seats in the assembly where its tally is a measly two.
"It would be irresponsible on my part to disclose to the media the number of seats my party would like to contest, before discussing the same with my alliance partners. We have identified 119 seats in the 243-strong assembly which are held neither by the JD(U) nor the BJP where our party will devote itself to strengthen the NDA's prospects," Paswan added.
The JD(U), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has a 70-plus tally, while the BJP has just over 50.
The 2015 assembly election was fought by the JD(U) in alliance with the RJD and the Congress and its return to the NDA has strengthened the BJP-led coalition, while making the task of working out a viable seat-sharing formula trickier.
Paswan, however, clarified that the 119 seats were identified not to stake the LJP's claim but with the focus on "wresting these from the opposition".
"Our party will prepare a list of potential candidates in a transparent manner. Only those aspirants will be considered by the parliamentary board who succeed in making 25,000 members in the assigned assembly segment," he said, adding that the list will be shared with other NDA partners and a final decision will be taken by the three parties together.
"At present, our focus is on reorienting ourselves after having spent much time and energy in Delhi. My 'Bihar First Yatra' will commence on February 21 and conclude on April 14 with a rally in Gandhi Maidan," he added.
Incidentally, April 14 happens to be the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, a revered figure among Dalits who constitute the LJP's main support base.
The LJP was founded while Ram Vilas Paswan was a member of the Union cabinet headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Its founding president quit the NDA in protest against the Gujarat riots of 2002 and joined the Congress-led UPA and became a Union minister again after the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
In 2014, when Chirag Paswan made his poll debut, the party contested as an ally of the NDA and put up its best performance in a Lok Sabha polls, winning six seats out of the seven it had contested. Last year, the party maintained its tally despite contesting one seat less than five years ago.