Union minister Pashupati Kumar Paras on Thursday asserted that the rebellion of JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha will “benefit the BJP-led NDA” in Bihar which has been lying low since being stripped of power in the state last year.
Paras was responding to queries from journalists about the current political situation in the state where the NDA which includes his Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party, is supported by a rival group headed by his nephew Chirag, and is pitted against the seven-party ruling “Mahagathbandhan”.
“The NDA will win all the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections next year. You can take it from me. There is no counter to the charisma and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while the Mahagathbandhan is in disarray as evident from the notes of discord struck by Kushwaha,” Paras said.
Replying to a query, he said, “Kushwaha’s revolt will definitely benefit the BJP and its allies in Bihar”, However, he became guarded when asked whether Kushwaha, a former Union minister who had served in Modi’s first administration, will be welcomed into the NDA.
“Let him (Kushwaha) make the move. A decision will be taken at that time”, said Paras, who represents Hajipur Lok Sabha seat, a pocket borough of his late brother Ram Vilas Paswan.
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Leader of the opposition in Bihar legislative council Samrat Chaudhary, widely regarded as the BJP’s Kushwaha community face, was similarly guarded when his response was sought.
“The party can consider all those who had been involved in the fight against Lalu Prasad from 1990 to 2005,” Chaudhary told PTI.
Kushwaha had served as the Leader of the opposition in the state assembly from 2004 to 2005, a job for which the then first-term MLA was handpicked by Nitish Kumar, the de facto leader who would become the chief minister a year later.
Leaders of the Mahagathbandhan, comprising the JD(U), RJD, Congress and the Left declined to come on record about the likely impact of Kushwaha’s exit from the party as they felt it was “premature” to think on those lines till the renegade leader bit the bullet.
However, speaking on condition of anonymity, they insisted that a glance be cast on Kushwaha’s electoral performance, and, “figures will speak for themselves”.
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Kushwaha had returned to the JD(U) in March 2021, merging his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party which had fought 99 seats of the 243-strong assembly in polls held four months earlier and drawn a blank.
The RLSP had contested the assembly elections as part of a motley group Grand Democratic Secular Front, cobbled together hurriedly ahead of the polls with Kushwaha as its leader.
The Front also comprised Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM which won five seats and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party which bagged one. The coalition came apart soon after the elections when the lone BSP MLA Zama Khan merged with the JD(U), bagging a cabinet berth.
All but one of the AIMIM MLAs are now in the RJD, one of them a minister.
Floated in 2013 after Kushwaha resigned from his Rajya Sabha seat, faced with imminent disqualification after the JD(U) accused him of anti-party activities, the RLSP made a splash in the Lok Sabha elections a year later when it contested and won three seats riding the Modi wave.
Kushwaha, who himself won from Karakat, was inducted into the Union council of ministers and made the MoS for Human Resources Development. Barely a year later, the fledgling outfit got plagued by factionalism with Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar opening a front against Kushwaha.
In 2018, the Arun Kumar faction announced that they were a separate party which they called the RLSP (secular). In an apparent bid to keep himself alive in public imagination, Kushwaha brought to the fore his dissatisfaction with the NDA and quit the alliance barely three months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, giving up his ministerial berth.
The RLSP fought the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as part of the “Mahagathbandhan” which then comprised RJD, Congress, former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha and Bollywood set designer turned politician Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party.
The party drew a blank and Kushwaha himself lost Karakat and was trounced by BJP’s Nityanand Rai in Ujiyarpur. Disgusted with the state of affairs in the party, the RLSP’s two MLAs and lone MLC merged with the JD(U) shortly afterwards.