Upendra Kushwaha threatens 'battle' against NDA in Bihar, but RLSP chief may have overestimated his clout

At the end of his three-day party convention, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief and Union minister of state for human resource development Upendra Kushwaha portrayed himself as Lord Krishna and the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah as Kauravas, in a battle for political dignity.

Kushwaha is still a part of the NDA, but for all practical purposes, at the end of his speech which went for over an hour-and-a-half, he announced his exit from the ruling dispensation. To ensure that his message reaches the leaders of the coalition, particularly Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar, he held a public rally at Motihari, which was attended by a few thousand people. He ended his speech by reciting lines from famed Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s “Krishna ki Chetawani”, describing a dialogue between Krishna and Duryodhan: “De do kewal panch gram, rakho apni dharti tamam…….Hit vachan nahi tune mana, maitri ka mulya nahi pahchana, to le main bhi ab jata hoon, antim sankalp sunata hoon, yachna nahi ab ran hoga sangharsh bada bhisan hoga, jiwan hai ya ki maran hoga”. (The request was to give us just a small patch of land, and keep your vast swathes of the earth/You did not hear the well-meaning words, and did not recognise the value of friendship/I, too, will go now, and announce my final resolution/Now, the approach will be one of battle, not supplication; the fight will be an intense one/There will either be life or death.)

After the rally, a close aide of Kushwaha told Firstpost, “He has said what he had to say. It is clear that nothing is left in the NDA for him. He has all but exited the ruling coalition. On 10 December, he may make the final announcement about quitting from the government and the NDA.” The announcement is likely to be made in Delhi. It is also being said that before he officially separates from the NDA next week, he may have a meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi to make the occasion “grand” and headline-worthy.

File image of RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha. Image courtesy: Twitter/@UpendraRLSP

File image of RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha. Image courtesy: Twitter/@UpendraRLSP

The mahagathbandhan, or grand coalition, in Bihar against the Modi-Nitish combine for parliamentary elections would then take a new shape – and would include Congress, RJD, RLSP, Hindustani Awam Morcha and Left Front. This would be a strong coalition on paper.

But even if all of them come together, the mahagathbandhan may not pose a formidable challenge to the BJP-JD(U)-LJP combine. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats, and in the last parliamentary elections, the NDA had won 31 seats (BJP 22, LJP 6 and RLSP 3). In 2014, when the BJP had offered three seats to Kushwaha, it was believed that the RLSP had been given seats disproportionate to its actual strength. However, the BJP was then in a difficult situation — Nitish Kumar had abruptly exited the NDA over Narendra Modi being made the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, and the saffron party was not sure of its strength in the state.

Amid the Modi wave, all three candidates of the RLSP, as also all six candidates of of the LJP, had won the elections. Later, an RLSP MP revolted against the party, due to which the party's strength in Parliament was reduced to two. Kushwaha became a minister of state.

In Bihar, the BJP had polled 29.40 percent of votes, LJP got 6.40, RLSP got 3 percent, JD(U) got 15.80 percent, RJD got 20.10 percent and Congress got 8.40 percent. Nitish Kumar had fought that election on his own. The combined vote share of the BJP, JD(U) and LJP from 2014 was over 50 percent. If the parties retain this vote share, the alliance has the potential to sweep the polls in Bihar.

In the Bihar Assembly elections which took place after the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP's vote share was slightly higher than that during the parliamentary election in Bihar — 29.9 percent. The party was then up against the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine. The RLSP, which contested 23 seats, could win only two. The two MLAs who had won from the RLSP have since deserted their parent party and are now looking to switch over to the JD(U)/BJP.

In the current seat-sharing formula as discussed between Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar and subsequently between Amit Shah and Ram Vilas Paswan, the BJP and JD(U) were to contest an equal number (17) of seats each, four would be allocated to the LJP (plus one Rajya Sabha seat from a BJP-ruled state to Paswan), and two to the RLSP, if it remained with the NDA. All the parties were expected to agree to contest fewer seats than last time.

However, an overambitious Kushwaha mistook the 2014 Modi wave as his own support base, and has been dreaming of becoming the Bihar chief minister and a kingmaker in national politics. He has publicly met expelled JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav to pressurise Amit Shah to yield to his demand for three seats in the 2014 parliamentary polls. The BJP chief didn’t respond to his 30 November deadline. For now, neither Shah nor Nitish kumar are likely to respond to Kushwaha's challenge, encapsulated in the line, "the approach will be one of battle, not supplication." They may wait for people to respond to his threat in May 2019.

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Updated Date: Dec 06, 2018 22:26:27 IST

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