It is an open secret that Rashtriya Lok Samta Party(RLSP) leader and Minister of Education Upendra Kushwaha is ambitious about becoming the Chief Minister of Bihar. Mr. Kushwaha, while addressing his party workers in Patna on Wednesday, took an indirect jibe at Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and claimed that Nitish Kumar is now content after donning the CM chair for 15 years. He added that 'Nitish Kumar does not want to continue after 2020 assembly elections'. He said:
"Nitish Kumar Ji is like my elder brother. Both of us understand each other well. We have good personal relations and I met Nitish Ji recently. Nitish Kumar had told me with a heavy heart that it has been 15 years that he is the CM of Bihar. 'How long will I continue as CM? Now there is going to be a vacancy Upendra Ji' he told me".
"I am telling the truth. I am not trying to make any satire against Nitish Ji. The media will say that I am seeking his resignation but Nitish Ji does not want to be the CM after 2020. He has got a mandate for 5 years and if he does not want to continue then no one can force him to continue as CM. Media persons please understand, Nitish Ji is satisfied and saturated when it comes to CM's chair but people will misquote my statement. The people of Bihar will decide who will be CM and not the political parties", he added.
Countering Kushwahs's statement, JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said that Nitish Kumar is a popular leader and JD(U) will project him as CM face in 2020 Vidhan Sabha elections.
Tyagi said, "Nitish Ji has the mandate to be CM till 2020. He is the most competent man and he took out Bihar from the jungle raj. Among the recent surveys, he was voted as no.1 CM for his good governance and delivery. Nitish Ji will be a projected as the CM face in 2020 Vidhan Sabha elections. As there is no vacancy for the post of Prime Minister in Delhi, similarly there is no vacancy for the post of Chief Minister in Bihar. It is not the question of someone's liking or disliking, he is the undisputed leader of the 12 crore people of Bihar"
After JD(U) President Nitish Kumar and BJP chief Amit Shah in a joint press conference declared that JD(U) and BJP would be contesting equal number of seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections which is 17 seats each for BJP and JD(U) leaving 4 plus Rajya Sabha berth for Ramvilas Paswan and 2 seats respectively for LJP and RLSP.
Upendra Kushwaha has been communicated by the BJP's top leadership that every alliance partner will a make sacrifice to accommodate JD(U) into the alliance. Like BJP contested 31 seats in 2014 whereas in 2019 they plan to contest on 17 seats. On the other hand, LJP contested 7 seats in 2014 and in 2019 they are being offered 4 seats. RLSP contested 3 seats and they are being offered 2 seats now.
Upendra Kushwaha is miffed with the fact that RLSP MLA was not accommodated when Nitish Government was sworn in after he joined hands with NDA. Whereas LJP was given a special favour by making Ramvilas Paswan's younger brother Pashupati as the minister and then later he was nominated as a member of Bihar legislative council.
Kushwaha said, "BJP leaders told me that JD(U) has joined the NDA and every alliance partner should make a sacrifice to accommodate JD(U). But I want to ask the BJP that every alliance partner should be a part of profit and loss. When Nitish Ji joined NDA and formed the government, every party including JD(U), BJP, LJP became a part of Nitish Kumar's government but my party's MLA was not given representation in the ministry. Since we were not a part of the profit than why should we bear the loss. Why didn't the RLSP get the shared ministry? I have conveyed it to BJP leadership first let me know why was I neglected then I am ready to make the sacrifice without taking anything. If it is not justified then my party does not want to be a part of the cabinet. I will make efforts to make Narendra Modi PM again".
On Kushwaha's charge that RLSP was ignored in Nitish's cabinet expansion, KC Tyagi said:
"The day we joined NDA after parting ways with Mahagathbandhan. JD(U) had 12 MP in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. We don't have any single minister in the cabinet but we never made it an issue of prestige. These issues are not discussed in public meeting. BJP is the largest party of the alliance and they are discussing with every alliance partners".
The day Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah announced that JD(U) and BJP would contest equal no. of seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Upendra Kushwaha met RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav in Arwal district to mount pressure on the BJP leadership to get a better deal. But it did not work out as Bjp leadership communicated to Kushwaha that 'take 2 seats or else decide your political course'.
Data of 2015 Vidhan Sabha elections in which BJP received a severe drubbing at the hands of Nitish-Lalu Mahagathbandhan shows that Kushwaha failed to transfer the Kushwaha community votes to the NDA fold. Majority of the community accepts Nitish Kumar's leadership and the decision that the BJP and JD(U) will contest an equal number of seats was taken in consultation with Prime Minister Modi, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and BJP President Amit Shah.
Now the question is what will Kushwaha do? Kushwaha understands his limitations and in all likelihood will stay with the NDA but wants to settle the 2020 elections Vidhan Sabha seat share now. At the same time, he holds back-channel negotiations with RJD till the results of the 5 state assembly elections are declared. It is expected that results of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will have a huge bearing on shaping the political realignment in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.