It is unfortunate that priority of the government is not to work for the poor but to fix political opponents by hook or by crook, were words of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief and former Union Minister of State Upendra Kushwaha in his resignation letter to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
After prolonged test and trial, Upendra Kushwaha has finally decided to dump the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Coincidentally this decision just surfaced a day before assembly election results which may not bring good news for the ruling bench. But this decision has a deep history of ups and down which deserves a revisit.
The “Luv-Kush” factor in Bihar Politics:
In Bihar, the relevance of “Luv-Kush” equation is far less discussed part, unlike Muslim-Yadav (MY) combination. Its presence can be traced right from mid-90s when Lalu Yadav became chief minister of the state attaining epitome of popularity among the backward section (which included Minority, Yadav, Koeri, Kurmi and Dalits). But one bloc of the backward comprised of Kurmi and Koeri came on to the target of opposition parties mainly by George Fernandes’s Samata Party.
Nitish Kumar was among the first leader to anticipate the strength of “Luv-Kush” equation. Upendra Kushwaha, as leader started having more importance in the state politics when he went on to become General Secretary of Samata Party in 1994. Upendra remained in that position till 2002.
The Luv-Kush equation started gaining momentum in early 2000. It was in 2000 when Upendra got elected to the Bihar Assembly. He became Samata Party’s Deputy Leader in Bihar assembly and remained in that post till 2004. At this point, Nitish Kumar, the then Minister of Railways, helped him to elevate and become the leader of opposition in assembly and thus he successfully discharged his responsibilities till February 2005. But the affinity between Nitish and Upendra became bitter.
Kushwaha left the JDU but rejoined it grabbing a Rajya Sabha seat in 2010 which he did not hold it for long. In 2012 his anti-Nitish stand became stronger than earlier whose result was, Upendra’s vote in favour of Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail in Rajya Sabha siding with the UPA government and against the JDU line. This time he was suspended from the party. Addressing to a press conference he said, “I have decided to quit my membership from Rajya Sabha and also from JD-U to protest dictatorial attitude of chief minister Nitish Kumar.” Thus the Kurmi-Koeri or Luv-Kush brotherhood of Nitish Kumar and Upendra Kushwaha met a fatal end.
Finally, in 2013, he played the biggest gamble and floated his own party with Rambihari Singh and named it as Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP). After siding with the NDA in 2014, he reaped the electoral benefits in the Lok Sabha polls leading to gain a cabinet berth and he was made Minister of State for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation. After cabinet re-shuffle, he became the Minister of State of Human Resource Development.
Kushwaha’s Flip-Flop of contemporary times:
Post-2013, Kushwaha’s main target was Nitish Kumar on one hand and Lalu Yadav on the other. Despite being an ally of JDU under the umbrella of NDA, Upendra Kushwaha’s anti-Nitish tirade did not end.
Being the foremost leader of the Koeri community, BJP hardly tried to restrict Upendra Kushwaha from attacking Nitish Kumar, as BJP in Bihar needed the vote bank consolidation of the Koeri community which account for 6% of Bihar’s population having a significant voter base in around 20-25 assembly seats. But his party had to face the heat in 2015 Bihar assembly election as RSLP won only two seats.
The fresh tussle within the NDA took pace when Kushwaha and leaders of RLSP started taking stand against the seat sharing talk between BJP-JDU for 2019 election as their demand was to get more seats than Nitish Kumar’s JDU. Indeed BJP had put less effort in reaching out to its allies in Bihar- LJP and RLSP. Recently JDU did try its best to deflect two RLSP legislators to its fold but this move did not succeed.
Projection of Upendra Kushwaha became an aggressive priority for RLSP leaders in recent past. The spokesperson of RSLP, Jitendra Nath in an interview said, “It is true that Nitish Kumar has been the biggest non-Yadav OBC leader in the last 12 years, but Upendra Kushwaha comes from a broad social group in which OBCs Koeri-Kurmi and EBC Dhanuk dominate with about 20 per cent vote share. Nitish Kumar has hit his political plateau and it is time for a change in the NDA leadership.”
In Search of Political Shelter: – After lots of political somersaults, Upendra Kushwaha pulling out from NDA has commenced a new hunt for political arithmetic. The resignation from BJP led NDA has given a speculative package of relief to the grand alliance (which consists of RJD, Congress & HAM) in Bihar. BJP leaders have unleashed attack on Upendra Kushwaha as soon as he announced to quit the NDA.
In conversation with Newsd, the state president of the RJD, Ram Chandra Purve said, “Kushwaha Ji met our leader Tejshwi Yadav few days back. He was invited to mahagathbandhan which stands on pillars of democracy, social justice, socialism and secularism. It’s really unfortunate to acknowledge the fact that a minister (Upendra Kushwaha) seeks an appointment to meet the PM (Narendra Modi) and BJP president (Amit Shah) but he (Upendra Kushwaha) remained devoid of it. This is nothing but disrespect to rules of parliamentary democracy. We welcome, Upendra Kushwaha’s decision and we are ready to welcome him in mahagathbandhan and together we shall assure a no return of Modi government in 2019.”
Till decision of grand alliance comes into light, the probable arithmetic of grand alliance with Yadav, Muslim, Mahadalit and the Koeri will increase its strength if Kushwaha joins the camp but then the number of seats offered to RLSP may give rise to new loggerheads.