Chirag Paswan, leader of the Lok Janshakti Party, a BJP ally in Bihar, on Saturday said contentious issues such as the Ram Temple and triple talaq, which are being raised ahead of the Lok Sabha elections could harm the NDA. Addressing a press conference in Bihar’s Sheikpura district, the LJP parliamentary board chairman said: "Development should be the poll plank for the NDA, which, I am confident, will help the coalition win more than 35 of the 40 seats in Bihar. I am hopeful that the election will be fought on the issue of development and contentious issues like the Ram Temple and triple talaq will be kept at bay. These may harm the coalition's prospects," he said.
Chirag, the son of Union minister and the LJP's founding president Ram Vilas Paswan, had expressed similar concerns last month after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost power in three of its strongholds -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Earlier also, Chirag had sent a strong message to the ruling BJP by making it clear that the Ram Temple was an agenda of the BJP and not the NDA. After the debacle of the BJP in the recent Assembly elections in three heartland states, Chirag had said it was time the saffron party went for a course correction. The LJP leader said the issue of Ram Temple had dominated the actual issues and mangled the agenda of development on which the saffron party had won in 2014.
Paswan's statement came at a time when the issue of triple talaq has thrown Parliament into a turmoil and another BJP ally in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), has refused to vote in favour of the bill in the Rajya Sabha after having abstained in the Lok Sabha.
Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contention that an ordinance on the Ram Temple will not be brought ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the issue and the delay in a decision on the title suit in the apex court are being resented by the hardliners within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.
Replying to another query, Chirag said the LJP's claim over the Munger Lok Sabha seat stood as of now.
"Neither of our allies (BJP and JDU) has approached us, expressing the desire to contest the seat. But if we are asked to give up our claim on the seat and offered some other constituency, it will be duly considered," he added.
Notably, Munger is represented in the Lok Sabha by Veena Devi, wife of mafia don-turned-politician Suraj Bhan Singh who is a national vice-president of the LJP.
Singh has been fielding his wife in elections following his conviction in the murder case of former Bihar minister Brij Bihari Prasad in 2008.
Speculation has been rife that the Janata Dal (United) may insist on the seat for Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet, who had won the seat for his party in 2009, but had lost it to Veena Devi five years later.
The JD(U), which had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha polls separately, returned to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2017.
(With PTI inputs)