Bihar: Is Nitish Kumar fanning the split in Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP?

A two-year-old split in NDA ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, which largely went unreported, has now become a talking point after Jahanabad RLSP MP Arun Kumar announced he is floating a new party

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

Vishwadeepak

Is Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar fanning the flames of an old split in Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, with the help of the BJP? Those who understand the nuances of Bihar’s caste politics seem to think so.

Pointing a finger towards the role of the Bihar Chief Minister, a Patna watcher told National Herald on the condition of anonymity that the split in RLSP, which dates back to 2016, has furtively been given an impetus by Nitish more recently. "BJP silently supported Nitish Kumar in ‘Operation finish Upendra Kushwaha’ before 2019 general elections, as there are strong doubts about his loyalty. Upendra Kushwaha’s hobnobbing with Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav particularly disturbed the BJP top brass,” he said.

Remember, Kushwaha was the first to meet Lalu Prasad Yadav in Delhi when the latter was admitted to AIIMS, in March 2018. Lalu’s son and apparent heir of his political legacy, Tejashwi Yadav has recently invited Kushwaha to join the RJD-Congress-HAM(S) Grand Alliance in Bihar.

“Although Kushwaha navigated political waters successfully all these years, he is now stuck. His becoming assertive was not liked by both BJP and JD(U). To cut him to size, Nitish Kumar fanned his rival Arun Kumar’s political ambitions. BJP supported Nitish in this game. It will be easy for the saffron party to handle a weak Kushwaha,” said the Patna watcher.

Observers feel that RLSP’s personal attack on Nitish, who is known to nurse personal grudges for a long time, has set the ground for Nitish to launch ‘Operation finish Upendra Kushwaha’

Nitish Kumar, who enjoys the status of “big brother” in the NDA camp in Bihar, despite having less political capital in terms of Lok Sabha members, sees Kushwaha’s emergence as a potential threat from within NDA camp. “Both belong to the same community which is the second most powerful community after Yadavs in Bihar. Naturally, he dealt with the Kushwaha threat on a priority,” said a senior Patna-based journalist.

Working President of RLSP Nagmani saying Kushwaha should be the NDA CM face in the next Bihar assembly election only added further fuel to the fire. Amid reports of a growing gap between RLSP and BJP, Nagmani said in the first week of June that If NDA has to win big in Lok Sabha elections and assembly elections in Bihar then Upendra Kushwaha has to be the Chief Minister. He went on to claim, “We are a bigger party than the JD(U), we have three seats in Lok Sabha and JD(U) has two. We can’t accept Nitish Kumar as our leader.”

Observers feel that Nagmani’s personal attack on Nitish, who is known to nurse personal grudges for a long time, has set the ground for Nitish to launch ‘Operation finish Upendra Kushwaha’.

On his part, Jahanabad RLSP MP Arun Kumar sounded hopeful about his latest move to launch a new party ahead of the 2019 elections. When National Herald contacted him, Arun Kumar put a twist in the narrative by saying that it is he who represents the real RLSP, and not Kushwaha. Calling it an old split that has resurfaced now, Arun Kumar said a new party was necessitated by ‘technical’ reasons.

“In the general body meeting of the party which was held in 2016 in Patna, I had expelled Upendra Kushwaha from RLSP. We have also filed a petition with the Election Commission claiming our rights over the election symbol of the party,” added Arun Kumar.

On his part, Jahanabad RLSP MP Arun Kumar sounded hopeful about his latest move to launch a new party ahead of the 2019 elections. When National Herald contacted him, Arun Kumar put a twist in the narrative by saying that it is he who represents the real RLSP, and not Upendra Kushwaha

Both factions of RLSP claim to have expelled each others leaders

In total, RLSP has two MLAs in the Bihar assembly and three Lok Sabha MPs, including founding president Upendra Kushwaha. Arun Kumar claimed to have support of one MLA while Ram Kumar Sharma who is an MP from Sitamarhi Lok Sabha seat is said to be in support of the Kushwaha faction.

Kumar did not divulge any detail regarding his new party, but NH has credible information that he has applied for the registration of a new party with the name of RLSP (Secular).

An old friend of Kumar told NH that he kept silent until now because he feared losing his Lok Sabha membership due to anti-defection laws.

However RLSP national spokesperson Fazal Imam Mallick countered Arun Kumar’s claim and said it was Arun Kumar who was expelled from the RLSP in 2016, on ground of anti-party activities. Sounding cautious, he flatly refused any comment on Nitish Kumar’s alleged role in the deepening divisions in the RLSP.

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