Speculations rife on Kushwaha's 'big announcement' in RLSP's state executive meet
Patna, Nov 16: All eyes will be on the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party state executive meeting here on Saturday amid speculations that its founding president and Union minister Upendra Kushwaha could make a "big announcement" with regard to his continuance in the BJP-led NDA.
Mercurial RLSP leader Nagamani echoed the prevailing mood on the eve of the meeting with a cryptic remark, "There will be a big explosion in a day or two". However, a senior party leader told PTI, "We are not going to pull the plug on NDA. The ball is in the BJP's court. They have to come clean on whether they value the support we had extended when Nitish Kumar left them high and dry ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls".
Kushwaha, Union Minister of State for HRD, had left for Delhi Thursday, announcing that he had sought an appointment with BJP chief Amit Shah to gain clarity on the issue of seat-sharing among the NDA constituents in Bihar, and also his alleged humiliation at the hands of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The RLSP chief is expected to fly back here Saturday morning to attend the state executive meeting which would also be eagerly watched by the opposition Grand Alliance comprising the RJD, Congress and Hindustani Awam Morcha, which has been trying to woo the disgruntled Kushwaha for quite some time.
Kushwaha had interpreted the Bihar chief minister's recent remark at a function that the "level of discourse should not be lowered (itna neeche mat giraiye)", as an affront to him. He had alleged that the chief minister referred to him as "neech" (lowly) - a charge rejected by Kumar-led JD(U).
The RLSP chief's aggressive comments against Kumar in the wake of the controversy and his training guns on Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi for coming in defence of Kumar has signalled Kushwaha's growing isolation in the coalition. A former JD(U) leader, Kushwaha had quit the party and floated his own outfit in 2013. He joined the NDA soon after Kumar snapped the 17-year-old ties with the BJP following differences over projecting Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The RLSP had won all three seats it had contested in the state in the 2014 general elections. After a dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls wherein the JD(U) won only two of the 40 seats in the state, Kumar had forged an alliance with arch rival Lalu Prasad, who heads the RJD, along with the Congress leading to the formation of a 'Mahagathbandhan' that won a handsome victory in the assembly polls of 2015. However, the JD(U) president got rattled by corruption allegations against his then deputy Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu's younger son, and walked out of the alliance last year and rejoined the NDA.
"It has been our stated position that our tie-up is with the BJP and not the JD(U). It is the BJP we are looking at for answers to our many questions. These include, why are we being expected to make a sacrifice in terms of number of seats to be contested in the next general elections when we have been the only NDA constituent which remained unrepresented when the coalition came to power in the state," an RLSP leader said.
"The BJP's top leadership, on the other hand, has maintained an ambiguous silence on the hurt caused to us by Nitish Kumar's remark that clearly indicated that he held us to be inconsequential. The only BJP leader who has come up with a reaction is Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and he has only rubbed salt into our wounds," he said referring to a recent tweet by the deputy chief minister to which Kushwaha had taken strong exception on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in a guarded response to queries about the RLSP's possible exit from the NDA, JD(U) state president Vashishth Narayan Singh said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was strong and in a very good position. Exit of none will make a difference to it. But every constituent has to decide for itself, taking full responsibility for the consequences, he said. "Also, history has demonstrated that whenever an alliance partner seeks to break ranks, nobody can stop it," Singh added.