Bihar: Rift Widens Between Kushwaha and Nitish Kumar in Ruling JD-U
Image Courtesy: PTI
Patna: The rift between senior ruling Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) leader Upendra Kushwaha and party top boss and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar widened on Friday after both engaged in a war of words to target each other, splitting wide open the internal friction in JD-U, a major ally of the ruling Mahagathbandhan in Bihar.
Kushwaha, the president of JD-U's parliamentary board, on Friday attacked Kumar and dared him to call a party meeting soon to provide him a proper opportunity to express his concerns and discuss the issues raised by him. “I am saying time and again that JD-U has weakened and it is a matter of worry for us but my concern was ignored by Kumar. No action has been taken to strengthen the party,” he said at a press conference at his official residence.
In a reference to reports that he might resign from the ruling JD-U and may join hands with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kushwaha dismissed the speculation about leaving the party. “Why should I leave?” he said, a day after Kumar asked him to quit the party.
Kushwaha, an old associate of Kumar since the days of the Samata Party in the mid-90s, in a bid to embarrass Kumar, demanded that he should reveal the “deal” that was made with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for the formation of the Mahagathbandhan-led government in August last year. “What was the deal, it should be revealed, I also want to know. There is an attempt to weaken the party (JD-U). If as deal was made, as RJD leaders have claimed time and again in recent months, the top leadership should inform us and we should discuss it within the party” he said.
Kushwaha, who is a JD-U MLC, said JD-U national president Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh should call the party's national executive meeting and tell them about the “deal” with RJD.
Though it seems Kushwaha is not comfortable in the party, which is evident in the way he has raised this question and targeted Kumar, he also expressed his eagerness to meet and talk to Kumar to clear the confusion. “I am ready to meet and talk if Kumar calls me,” he said at the press conference.
In response to Kushwaha, Kumar on Friday had told the media that the party had given respect to him and sent him to Rajya Sabha and he was made a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC). “But anyone is free to come and go, it hardly affects the party,” he added.
According to some party leaders close to Kushwaha, he was disappointed after being sidelined and also Kumar failed to fulfil “promises” made to him in March 2021 when he merged his party, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), with JD-U.
Ironically, Kushwaha’s RLSP performed poorly in the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls and in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Kushwaha is said to be upset with Kumar for not promoting him on par with RJD leader and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav. “Kushwaha wanted either a big role in the party or the government led by Kumar. But nothing has happened so far. Now, an ambitious Kushwaha is playing politics,” said a political watcher, refusing to be named.
Kushwaha has reportedly informed Kumar that he should be made deputy CM “to check and counter Tejashwi and RJD”. After such reports surfaced, Kumar publicly ruled out the possibility of another deputy CM in Bihar.
Kushwaha, an Other Backward Class (OBC) leader belonging to the powerful koeri community, who had protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens and vowed to stand for secularism and social justice, was seen as an emerging leader after he resigned from the Narendra Modi cabinet.
The Koeri community is the largest social group after Lalu Prasad Yadav’s caste (yadavs) in Bihar, known for caste-ridden politics.
Even on Friday, Kushwaha downplayed his joining BJP, but last week three senior BJP leaders from Bihar visited him at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, where he was admitted for a routine check-up. This was widely seen as his “growing closeness” with the saffron party.
There are reports that Kushwaha is likely to revive his party RLSP that he had merged with JD-U and may join hands with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Kushwaha’s best political time was in 2014 when his party won three Lok Sabha seats as part of the NDA and he became a Union Minister in the Modi cabinet.
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