In another setback for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Union minister Upendra Kushwaha — also president of NDA ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) — has decided to skip an NDA dinner in Bihar.
According to CNN-News18, RLSP is miffed with Nitish Kumar's growing influence in NDA in Bihar. The party had secured 2.6 percent vote share in Bihar.
— News18 (@CNNnews18) June 7, 2018
"We have full faith in the prime minister. But we demand from the BJP that there should be an NDA meeting and all alliance parterns should decide on the chief ministerial candidate for the next Bihar elections," RLSP spokesperson M Anand told CNN-News18.
"Without any NDA meeting, if any party projects its leaders as CM candidate, that would be unjust," he further said.
The Bihar Assembly polls must be fought under Kushwaha's leadership, RLSP working president Nagamani said. "This is because he is the leader of a community which is the largest, after the Yadavs, among OBCs. Kushwahas account for about 10 per cent of the total population in the state."
The RLSP leader's statement came shortly before Kushwaha communicated to state BJP president Nityanand Rai via telephone that he would not be able to attend the NDA meeting. Kushwaha said he was occupied elsewhere and hence would not be able to attend the NDA meeting. But much should not be read into this as he has assured that other leaders of RLSP would be attending the meeting, Rai told reporters.
A former Kumar loyalist, Kushwaha quit the JD(U) in 2013 when he was a Rajya Sabha member, months after having been suspended from the party on disciplinary grounds.
He went on to form his own party and joined the BJP-led NDA. Riding the strong Narendra Modi wave in 2014, his party won three Lok Sabha seats and he became the Minister of State for Human Resource Development. However, his party did poorly in the assembly polls a month later, managing to win only two seats.
He has reportedly been sulking over his diminished stature in the NDA since Kumar returned to the coalition last year. The NDA gathering is first since Kumar returned to the coalition after dumping the Grand Alliance with the RJD and the Congress in July last year.
Apart from RLSP, Nitish Kumar's JD(U) also does not seem to be too happy with NDA. "We have not got special package for Bihar. But for the benefit of Bihar, we are with the NDA. But we would like to remind BJP to not be irresponsible," JD(U)'s Shyam Rajak told CNN-News18.
"Nitish Kumar and JD(U) are playing a major role in Bihar. We had contested election on 25 seats. They (NDA) will have to give us 25 seats, no question of any lesser number of seats. If NDA wants to be benefited by Nitish Kumar's image, they'll have to do justice to JD(U) and him," he further said.
These rumblings within the NDA in Bihar come just a day after Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan dismissed speculation about a rift within the NDA in Bihar over the issue of seat-sharing for next year's Lok Sabha polls and asserted that the BJP-led coalition was "intact" in the state.
"There is no discord in the NDA, please keep that in mind. The coalition is intact. All the speculation has been created by the media and you may end up being disappointed," Paswan, who was flanked by top NDA leaders of Bihar, including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, said.
Although Kushwaha was not present on the occasion, his party was represented by MLA Lallan Paswan.
Paswan was responding to queries about the recent assertion by the JD(U) that it was the "elder brother" in the NDA in Bihar and his own party's insistence that it would not forego any of its six Lok Sabha seats in the state to any other party in next year's general election.
"Please do not try to drive a wedge between the NDA partners. All of us are sitting here and we are preparing to face the 2019 Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," Paswan, who had joined the NDA shortly before the 2014 General Election, said.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Jun 07, 2018 18:38:10 IST