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RLSP may ditch NDA to join hands with RJD before 2019 polls

Speculation about RLSP chief and Union Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha joining hands with RJD chief Lalu Prasad is rife in political circles here following a secret meeting between the two on Monday night.

The Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) is an ally in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

Upendra Kushwaha and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief had a long meeting, in which discussions veered around likely political moves, an RJD leader said on Tuesday.

“They held a one-on-one meeting and discussed current political scenario in Bihar and likely political moves ahead of the 2019 general elections,” the RJD leader considered close to Lalu Prasad said.

According to RJD leaders, Lalu Prasad has no problem in projecting Upendra Kushwaha as the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar Assembly polls in 2020 after his party joins hands with their party.

However, they insisted that the RLSP chief would have to walk out of the NDA to contest next Lok Sabha polls with the RJD. “Both Lalu Prasad and Upendra Kushwaha have begun discussion on it,” the RJD man said.

Two days ago, a senior RLSP leader Nagmani mooted the idea of projecting Upendra Kushwaha as the next Chief Minister of Bihar at a party rally organised here.

Earlier, much to the surprise of BJP, the RLSP had demanded that Upendra Kushwaha be declared NDA’s chief ministerial candidate for the Bihar assembly polls in 2015.

According to the RLSP leaders, the party chief has been eyeing the Chief Minister’s chair and could change sides for it.

In this backdrop, the meeting of Lalu Prasad and Upendra Kushwaha is an alarm bell for the BJP and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) of Nitish Kumar.

“If Laluji can accept Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister, he will have no problems promoting Upendra Kushwaha as the chief ministerial candidate in case he join hands with him…it’s simple. Laluji’s younger son and former Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav is young…he can wait for a few years,” a senior RJD leader said.

Upendra Kushwaha was upset that despite the RLSP being an NDA constituent, Nitish Kumar had refused to induct ministers from the party in his cabinet in July after he formed the new government with the BJP in July-end this year.

What angered him more was that Nitish Kumar informed BJP leaders that he would keep RLSP out of the government and the BJP is believed to have kept mum on the issue.

“BJP ally LJP’s leader Pashupati Kumar Paras (younger brother of Union Minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan) was inducted into the Cabinet of Nitish Kumar when he (Paras) was not even a member of the legislative assembly. He was defeated in the 2015 assembly polls. But Paswan put pressure on the BJP to accommodate him in the cabinet,” an RLSP leader said.

It is widely known that Nitish Kumar has strong reservations about Upendra Kushwaha, who has repeatedly attacked and targeted him in the last three years. Kushwaha is a friend-turned-foe of Nitish Kumar in the state politics.

Upendra Kushwaha is said to be unhappy with top BJP leaders and uncomfortable with Nitish Kumar’s JD-U’s entry into the NDA.

“He (Upendra Kushwaha) had refused to resign from the Union Cabinet last month after being asked by BJP President Amit Shah during the reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet… But it was embarrassing for him,” the RLSP leader said.

In all probability, if the party leader are to be believed, the RLSP chief is set to jump onto the RJD bandwagon, but when does Upendra Kushwaha decide to make it public is anybody’s guess at the moment.

In the caste-ridden politics of Bihar, Lalu Prasad is planning a new social engineering by wooing Upendra Kushwaha, who is a Koeri, a powerful OBC caste after Yadav. Koeris form around 7 to 8 per cent votes in Bihar.

Lalu Yadav is fully aware that his own castemen Yadavs and Muslims are with him and support of Koeri will change the political arithmetic in the state.

Besides Kushwaha, the RJD chief is also trying to rope in former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, President of Hindustan Awami Morcha. Manjhi, a Mahadalit, is not happy with the BJP after he was left in the lurch despite repeated promises to place him either in the Union cabinet or in a Raj Bhavan.