Bihar: Is Rebel JD-U Leader Kushwaha Becoming Another RCP Singh?
Patna: After demanding that his own party to reveal the “deal” with its main ally, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), senior ruling Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) leader Upendra Kushwaha, who revolted against party top boss and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on Wednesday said he was against Kumar’s bid to promote RJD leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tehashwi Yadav as the leader of ruling Mahagathbandhan for the 2025 Bihar Assembly polls. Kushwaha said Kumar should promote a party leader (JD-U) belonging to marginalised sections (OBCs, EBCs and Dalits) in place of Tejashwi as the next CM.
“If Kumar promotes Tejashwi in place of a JD-U leader, the party is bound to sink. The party will be weakened further, Kumar should explain to party leaders and workers what is the compulsion to promote a leader of an ally instead of own party leader for a future role” Kushwaha told media here on Wednesday.
This latest statement of Kushwaha is being widely seen here as a desperate bid to garner support within the party of those who are not comfortable with RJD. So far, Kushwaha has failed to get any support in the party despite his repeated claim since last month that he was worried about weakening of JD-U and wanted to strengthen the party.
Kushwaha’s remarks came a day after state JD-U president Umesh Kushwaha said Kushwaha (Upendra) is playing on BJP’s lap in the way he has been speaking on a daily basis. It appears to be a part of an agenda, he said, adding that he further made it clear that Kushwaha is no more than a primary member of the party.
However, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose party Hindustan Awam Manch or HAM is a ruling ally of the Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan government, reportedly said on Tuesday that Kushwaha wanted Kumar to promote him as JD-U’s CM candidate but became restless after Kumar publicly announced in December 2022 that the ruling Mahagathbandhan would contest the 2025 Assembly polls under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav.
After August 2022, when Kumar dumped his coalition partner BJP and joined hands with the Opposition Mahagathbandhan to form the government, it was being speculated in political circles as well as in local Hindi dailies here that Kumar would say goodbye to state politics and was likely to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 general elections.
Some RJD leaders, too, repeatedly claimed publicly that Tejashwi Yadav would replace Kumar sooner than later.
It is a different matter that Kumar has repeatedly denied that he would be a prime ministerial candidate in 2024 and announced that he would work for the unity of Opposition parties at the national level to defeat BJP. In the past, too, Kumar had denied that he was interested in the PM’s post.
The Mahagathbandhan in Bihar consists of Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad/Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Manch of Jitan Ram Manjhi, Congress and Left parties.
Early this month, 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 RJD for the formation of the Mahagathbandhan-led government in August last year. “What was the deal, it should be revealed. There is an attempt to weaken the party (JD-U)’”, he said.
Kushwaha is said to be upset with Kumar for not promoting him on par with Tejashwi. “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 aiming big again” a political watcher here said.
Kushwaha on Wednesday also reiterated that he is in JD-U and will not leave the party in a reference to reports that he might resign from the ruling JD-U and may join hands with BJP. He also expressed his eagerness to meet and talk to Kumar even “at midnight.”
Two days ago, Kushwaha wrote an open letter to the party's 75 lakh workers in which he raised the issue of a “special deal” of the party with RJD and invited them for a discussion on it on February 19-20 in Patna.
”JD-U is not a party of any individual (Nitish Kumar) but thousands of people have made contributions to it. There is confusion about the special deal of JD-U merger with RJD,” he stated in his letter.
This is a big move on the part of Kushwaha to display a show of strength and force the party to initiate action against him, as so far he has not done anything that can be termed “anti-party activity”. He has been regularly targeting Kumar and party national president Lalan Singh.
But on Monday (Feb 6), Kumar said Kushwaha was free to stay or go wherever he wanted, but in recent days he has been speaking on someone else’s behalf and is part of some agenda. “We have given him respect, dignity, position but he fled in the past too. In 2021 he returned again”, said Kumar.
According to a senior JD-U leader close to Kumar, the chief minister is a seasoned politician who understands the political moves of an individual leader of the party. He recalled that Kumar identified former JD-U national president Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, popularly known as RCP Singh, who was playing for BJP to oust him from power.
Kumar, who is de facto party chief, forced RCP to resign from the party on August 6, 2022, after JD-U sought an explanation from him over allegations of corruption. In July 2022, RCP resigned from the Union Cabinet as steel minister after the JD-U denied him a Rajya Sabha nomination. This IAS-turned- politician was promoted by Kumar as he belongs to his own caste, kurmi.
“After JD-U ,RCP has lost face and position, he has become powerless from being powerful and is now struggling for survival in politics and may end up joining BJP”, the JD-U leader said.
Kushwaha, who is a JD-U MLC, is not comfortable in the party, which is evident in the way he has raised this question and targeted Kumar. He was disappointed after being sidelined and with Kumar who failed to fulfil “promises” when he merged his party, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), with JD-U, in 2021.
Unlike RCP, 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 a few years ago. Ironically, Kushwaha’s RLSP performed poorly in the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls and in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. His best performance was in 2014 Lok Sabha polls when his party won three seats as a part of NDA.
The koeri community is the largest social group after Lalu Prasad Yadav’s caste (yadavs) in Bihar, known for caste-ridden politics.
As per political stories doing the rounds here, BJP is hoping Kushwaha will join hands with NDA to minimise the loss of Kumar’s 16% popular votes in next year’s Lok sabha elections.
In his political career of over three decades, Kushwaha,a former Union minister, has won own elections twice and was defeated about half a dozen times. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council by Kumar, who also helped him to become Opposition leader once. But Kushwaha is yet to emerge as a leader with a mass support base.
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