Nothing is impossible in politics, especially when it is related to Bihar politics. Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) leader and Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, a BJP ally, lived up to the old saying when he met his rival Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav in AIIMS, Delhi on Friday. Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is serving time in a Ranchi jail after being convicted in fodder scam cases, had been brought for treatment to AIIMS, Delhi on Thursday.
Kushwaha’s visit is stirring up Bihar politics as it’s widely known Kushwaha is unhappy within the NDA. Although leaders from both parties have downplayed the media hype and called it a ‘courtesy meeting’, political observers smell more than just a courtesy call in the meeting between the leaders of rival parties.
“They may call it a courtesy meet, but when two leaders meet, they inevitably discuss politics. Given the rising discontent among NDA allies, the meeting between Lalu and Kushwaha cannot be called only personal,” said a Delhi-based senior journalist.
“Kushwaha ji has worked with Lalu ji in the past and both come from same ideological background” Fazal Imam Mallick, RLSP spokesperson
Fazal Imam Mallick, spokesperson of the RLSP, said that the two leaders met for just 20 minutes. “What will they discuss in such a small time? How can media call it a political meeting? Lalu ji is a senior and respected leader from Bihar. What is wrong if Kushwaha ji met him in the hospital?” Mallick told National Herald. However, Mallick took pains to mention that “Kushwaha ji has worked with Lalu ji in the past and both come from same ideological background”.
Kushwaha’s trip to Lalu’s hospital room has set Delhi’s power corridors abuzz with fresh speculation that Kushwaha may leave the NDA camp before the next general election.
According to informed sources, Kushwaha admires Lalu’s unrelenting spirit and courage to stand strong in tough times; Lalu admires Kushwaha’s moderate style of politics. Lalu, say these sources, feels they share the same politics based on emancipation of backward castes in eastern UP and north-west Bihar.
Lalu’s party leads the Grand Alliance of RJD, Congress and Hindustani Awam Morcha in Bihar. Jitan Ram Manjhi, an erstwhile BJP ally, had quit the NDA which is in power at both centre and state, and joined Lalu’s alliance just a month ago.
Lalu, who is considered a master strategist of caste politics, understands that if Kushwaha also joins the alliance, it will be a serious jolt to the NDA camp. Kushwaha, who belongs to the Koeri OBC community, has a significant voter base in around 20-25 assembly seats in Bihar. Koeris form about 6% of Bihar’s population.
This is not the first time that there has been speculation about Kushwaha’s moves. There is said to be unhappiness across rank and file of the RLSP, who feel that BJP used their votebank to rise to power in UP. The BJP win in UP has reportedly halted Kushwaha’s ambitions of expansion in UP. The BJP then also joined hands with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in Bihar, who broke away from the Grand Alliance with Lalu and Congress to form an NDA government. CM Nitish Kumar also commands some Koeri votes, cutting into Kushwaha’s votebank. Within such a crowded NDA in Bihar, which also includes Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, where does this leave Kushwaha?
Kushwaha is also reportedly upset after a recent Supreme Court order diluting some stringent provisions of the SC/ST anti-atrocities act. He was among a delegation of SC/ST NDA ministers and MPs who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, March 28, to demand that the government file a review petition in the apex court. The government has subsequently said that it will file a review.
Bonhomie between top leaders and cadres of the RLSP and RJD was also on display recently, when RLSP organised a human chain programme to highlight the issue of educational reforms in Bihar. RJD not only extended its support to the programme but a large number of RJD activists had joined the event. Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari, who is considered very close to Lalu Prasad, and state RJD president Ram Chandra Purve shared the stage with Kushwaha during the human chain programme. Leader of Opposition in Bihar and younger son of Lalu Prasad Tejashwi Yadav had tweeted his support to Kushwaha’s human chain.
Surprisingly, JD(U) and LJP, despite being part of NDA, chose to stay away from the programme.