In a troublesome development for the NDA alliance in Bihar, the relationship between its allies the JD-U and the RLSP nosedived further on Sunday after the buzz gaining ground that two MLAs from Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s party can join hands with Nitish Kumar.
Kushwaha, who has a strenuous relationship with the Bihar chief minister lost cool and took to Twitter to train guns on Kumar, saying the latter is adept in ‘jod-tod (engineering defections)’ and alluded to the JDU earlier having taken in its fold MlAs and leaders from Congress, BSP, LJP and RJD as well.”
Kushawaha’s stinging remarks on Kumar came even after BJP’s repeated assertions that the RLSP will fight the next Lok Sabha polls in Bihar under the banner of the NDA.
There is a strong buzz in political circles that by January end, Kushwaha may rock the NDA boat and join hands with the alliance of Lalu Prasad-led RJD, Congress and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustan Awam Morcha.
Sources say that Kushwaha’s party which was offered two Lok Sabha seats by BJP chief Amit Shah to contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls, one less than the three it had contested in 2014, is hopeful of getting four to five Lok Sabha seats from the rival alliance. Sources also say that back channel talks have already taken place on this possibility and rebel JDU leader Sharad Yadav is also involved in the negotiations.
The sparring between Kushwaha and Kumar have escalated for some time. As soon media reported about two RLSP legislators being wooed by JDU, Kushwaha went hammer and tongs against Nitish Kumar.
“ Nitish Kumar, you have mastered the skills in engineering defections. Earlier it was the BSP, LJP, RJD, Congress and now the RLSP. But people of Bihar and India are seeing everything. We (RLSP) will keep fighting for the rights of the poor, the exploited, the deprived, the Dalits and the poor among upper caste irrespective of how much you attack us.”
On Saturday, supporters of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party had taken out an "aakrosh march" in Patna, protesting against the alleged denigratory remarks of Kumar against Kushwaha while participating in a conclave of a news channel.
After police lathi-cahrged RLSP workers, Kushwaha called the police action “distressing, shameful and shocking” and hit out at the Bihar Police saying it honours criminals but breaks skulls of agitators.
Earlier last month when BJP chief Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar jointly announced to contest 50:50 Lok Sabha seats, the RLSP issued a photo of Kushwaha’s tea meeting with Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav. The symbolism and the timing was not lost.
Nitish Kumar, who had severed his 17-years-oid ties with NDA in 2013 protesting against the elevation of Narendra Modi as BJP’s face for 2014 Lok Sabha polls, came back to its fold in 2017 after less than two year-long grand alliance experiment with the Congress and the RJD that was made before 2015 Assembly polls of the state.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led alliance, which was part of NDA in 2014, is now in RJD-Congress alliance. If Kushwaha is out, this will be loss of second ally for the NDA in Bihar.
While Manjhi, who belongs of Mushhar community, has his grip among Mahadalits (more backward groups even among Scheduled Castes), Kushwaha has his strong backing in 6% votes of Koiri community, the second prominent OBC community in Bihar after Yadavs.
The RJD, which is keen to widen its Muslim-Yadav (MY) combination on Sunday rubbed in telling Kushwaha that he should not scale up his fight with Nitish Kumar to this level had he decided to stay in NDA.
“Kushwaha is in a dilemma. His supporters got their skulls fractured for the honour of their leader. Despite that Kushway remaining in a dilemma (about leaving NDA) does not look healthy for his politics,” said RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari.