RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha Saturday 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.
Kushwaha met Yadav Friday hours after BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi announced a seat-sharing formula for the state for the next year Lok Sabha elections.
He said the seat sharing is yet to be finalised in the NDA and that he would meet Shah in the next two-three days.
Kushwaha, a Union minister of state for HRD, also wondered why a conclusion was being drawn that the RLSP 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,” Kushwaha said.
The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (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.
Dismissing speculation, Kushwaha said, “I am firmly with the NDA and committed to working for another term for Narendra Modi as prime minister.”
The RLSP chief had met Yadav at Arwal shortly after Shah and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar briefed reporters in New Delhi on the seat-sharing arrangement.
Kushwaha, a former JD(U) leader who had quit the party in 2013, months after suspension on disciplinary grounds, had floated his own outfit and joined the NDA while Nitish 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 as an equal the JD(U) that returned with a dismal tally of only two, is also being seen as a snub to Kushwaha, who has been viewing Kumar’s return to the NDA with consternation.
The RLSP had contested on three seats under the NDA banner in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and had won on all the seats. Kushwaha himself had won from the Karakat seat.
RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav reiterated that there was a standing invitation to 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 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.
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.
Yadav also sought to ruffle more feathers in the NDA, saying the press briefing that was held in New Delhi Friday by Shah and Kumar with neither LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan nor 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 Shah and 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 Kumar has. “Whom he should tie up with is going to be his call”, Yadav said.