Firmly with NDA, says RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha, a day after meeting RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav

Working to make Narendra Modi PM for another term, says RLSP chief.

Updated - October 27, 2018 06:40 pm IST

Published - October 27, 2018 06:36 pm IST - Patna

Union Minister and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha (right) meets RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in Jehanabad on October 26, 2018.

Union Minister and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha (right) meets RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav in Jehanabad on October 26, 2018.

RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha on October 27 said he stands “firmly” with the NDA and is working for another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day after he met RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav triggering speculation of discontent within the ruling BJP-led alliance in Bihar.

Mr. Kushwaha met Mr. Yadav on October 26 hours after BJP president Amit Shah announced a seat-sharing formula for Bihar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Kushwaha said the seat-sharing is yet to be finalised in the NDA and that he would meet Mr. Shah in the next couple of days.

Mr. Kushwaha, Union Minister of State for HRD, also wondered why a conclusion was being drawn that his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party would not get a fair deal.

The RLSP is a part of the BJP-led NDA in the state whose other constituents are Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP.

“Seat-sharing is yet to be finalised. I cannot comment on the basis of media reports. I will be meeting Amit Shah in next two-three days. I wonder why people are drawing the conclusion that we are not going to get a fair deal,” Mr. Kushwaha said. The RLSP is an ally of the BJP since the 2014 general elections.

“I also do not understand this big fuss about an equal number of seats for the BJP and the JD(U). Does it indicate any number?

“It could even imply that out of the 40 seats in Bihar, both parties will be contesting 10 each and leave the remaining 20 for others. There is a lot of scope for our party being accommodated respectably,” he said.

Mr. Dismissing speculation, Mr. Kushwaha said, “I am firmly with the NDA and committed to working for another term for Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.”

The RLSP chief met Mr. Yadav at Arwal shortly after Mr. Shah and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar briefed reporters in New Delhi on the seat-sharing arrangement.

A former JD(U) leader, Mr. Kushwaha quit the party in 2013, months after suspension on disciplinary grounds, floated his own outfit and joined the NDA while Mr. Kumar’s party was out of the BJP-led coalition.

The decision of the BJP, which had won 22 seats in 2014 general elections, to treat JD(U) as an equal partner is also being seen as a snub to Mr. Kushwaha, who has been viewing Mr. Kumar’s return to the NDA with consternation. The JD(U) won a dismal two seats in 2014.

The RLSP had contested and won in three seats under the NDA in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Kushwaha won from the Karakat seat.

Mr. Yadav, the RJD heir apparent, reiterated that there was a standing invitation to Mr. Kushwaha from his side to leave the NDA and join the grand alliance in Bihar.

Sources in the grand alliance said the RJD was ready to give more number of seats to Mr. Kushwaha than what the BJP was willing to spare for the RLSP, even though the Union Minister wanted to wait until it was clear how many seats each NDA constituent was likely to get. Mr. Kushwaha also desires to change his Lok Sabha seat in the 2019 polls as he was not sure of retaining Karakat in south Bihar, they claimed, adding that this was because the constituency does not have a sizeable number of voters from his caste (OBC Kushwaha or Koeri) and the Modi wave, which helped him win in 2014, is on the wane.

Mr. Yadav also sought to ruffle more feathers in the NDA, saying the press briefing that was held in New Delhi on October 26 by Mr. Shah and Mr. Kumar with neither Mr. Paswan nor Mr. Kushwaha in attendance smacked of disrespect and contempt for the two leaders whose loyalty the BJP seems to have been taken for granted. On reports of his telephonic conversation with LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan after Mr. Shah and Mr. Kumar came together before the media, he declined to give a direct reply, but said cryptically “Ram Vilas Paswan has been my guardian”. He is a father figure and has never back stabbed us the way Mr. Kumar has. “Whom he should tie up with is going to be his call,” Mr. Yadav said.

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