Patna, Feb 20 (PTI) The BJP on Wednesday said former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi would get due respect in the NDA if he chose to return to the coalition which he had walked out of a year ago.

Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai said this in the backdrop of recent posturing by Manjhi who has been playing hardball for a respectable number of seats within the opposition Mahagathbandhan for his Hindustani Awam Morcha.

We have enormous respect for Manjhi. Even when he left us and joined the opposition camp, we expressed no bitterness.

If he feels that he is being sidelined in the Mahagathbandhan, let me assure him that he will get due respect in the NDA if he chooses to return, Rai told reporters here.

The Bihar BJP president also said the NDA in Bihar has finalized a seat-sharing formula taking into account the parties that are already in the coalition. If more people join us, then things would be reworked.

As per the formula, the BJP and Chief Minister Nitish Kumars JD(U) would be contesting 17 seats each, leaving six for Ram Vilas Paswans LJP. The state has a total number of 40 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The Mahagathbandhan now comprises nearly half a dozen parties most prominent being RJD and Congress. Manjhi had joined the coalition in February last year and has been squirming over reports that in the upcoming general elections his party may get a number of seats that might be less than what was offered to some late entrants.

About a week ago, Manjhi had threatened to boycott the polls, or, go it alone if his party got one seat less than what was offered to the RLSP headed by former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha who was with the NDA till two months ago.

A couple of days ago, he upped the ante saying our party has a larger support base than that of even the Congress and we must get a number of seats that is second only to the RJD.

Manjhis son Santosh got elected to the legislative council with the help of the RJD barely a couple of months after HAM became a part of the Grand Alliance.

The party has, however, been suffering setbacks ever since it walked out of the NDA. One of its senior leaders and former state minister Narendra Singh joined the JD(U) last year while his state president Vrishan Patel and national spokesman Danish Rizwan resigned earlier this month.

Significantly, leaders of the Mahagathbandhan have so far avoided commenting on the contention of the former Chief Minister who floated his own party in 2015, after quitting the JD(U) in protest against having been made to step down and make way for the return of Nitish Kumar who had resigned after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

HAM had fought as an NDA ally the 2015 assembly polls wherein the NDA was trounced by the Mahagathbandhan which then comprised JD(U), RJD and Congress. The HAM performed dismally with only Manjhi managing to win one of the two seats he had contested.

Kumar returned to the NDA in July, 2017 following corruption allegations against RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav who was then his deputy.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.