RLSP may walk out of NDA by end of September as it is facing pressure from RJD to decide on joining hands.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) still undecided on the seat sharing formula in Bihar, the patience of one its partners, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), led by Upendra Kushwaha, is running out and if sources are to be believed, the regional party is firm that it would not accept the BJP’s decision to give it three of the state’s 40 Assembly seats.
Bihar-based political observers feel that Kushwaha’s recent statement that the law and order situation in the state was deteriorating was meant to put pressure on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Kushwaha, who was in Patna earlier this week, had attacked Chief Minister Nitish Kumar by saying that he had lost control over administration.
The RLSP claims to have a strong support base among the Kushwahas or Koeries who are 6% of the total electorate in the state and are decisive in 25 to 30 Assembly constituencies. Kushwaha is striving for a respectable share of seats in the NDA in next year’s general election.
The RLSP is seeking at least six seats for itself. In the 2014 polls, it had contested on three seats and won all of them. Kushwaha had won from Karakat in Shahabad region, Ramkumar Sharma from Sitamarhi and Arun Kumar Sharma from central Bihar’s Jehanabad. Arun Sharma has now developed differences with Kushwaha and is likely to join the BJP. For the 40 Lok Sabha seats, there are four NDA constituents, the BJP, JDU, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and the RLSP.
With Paswan making it absolutely clear that he will not let go of the six seats it had won in 2014, the BJP is finding it difficult to distribute the remaining 34 seats as it wants to retain its position of sending the largest number of MPs (22) in the Lok Sabha from the state. According to BJP sources, the party can, at the most, sacrifice 3-4 of its sitting seats which leaves not more than 16 seats to be distributed among the JDU and the RLSP.
Madhaw Anand, the party’s national general secretary, told The Sunday Guardian that the RLSP would like to continue with the NDA, but it was imperative that it got the “respect” that it deserved. “The BJP should understand that the RLSP has grown tremendously in the last four and a half years. We have organisational strength in each and every district. We will not compromise on the seat sharing formula. If they are going to offer us 2-3 seats, we are not going to accept it. The ball is in the court of the BJP and we are waiting for them to intimate us about their decision. We will take a call after hearing from them,” he said.
Justifying Kushwaha’s attack on Nitish Kumar, Anand said that the party cannot compromise on the issue of crime.
“There cannot be any politics on the issue of law and order. It is worsening every day in Bihar; the number of rape cases is increasing. We all know about the crimes that have taken place in shelter homes; our six workers have been murdered in recent times. The home department is with Nitsih Kumar and it is his responsibility to maintain law and order,” he added. Sources said that the “divorce” of RLSP, if things don’t work out, will happen by the end of September as the party was also facing pressure from the RJD to decide on whether it wants to become a part of the grand alliance. Kushwaha had last month met RJD president Lalu Yadav and his son Tejaswhi Yadav had publicly invited Kushwaha to join his alliance. “We have repeatedly been asking the BJP to convene a meeting of NDA parties in Bihar and decide the seat-sharing formula. We have been asking them for the last three months, but nothing has happened. When Amit Shah visited Patna, Nitish Kumar, after meeting him, said that seat sharing will be decided within four weeks. What happened to that?” Anand asked. While in Patna, Kushwaha had made a statement that there were some leaders in Bihar NDA who do not want Narendra Modi to become PM again. Observers and party sources say that he was referring to Nitish Kumar who was hostile to Narendra Modi in the past. It is no secret that Kushwaha had been against CM Nitish Kumar rejoining the NDA. The BJP, on the other hand, cannot ignore Kushwaha because of his influence on the Koeri or Kushwaha votes. The party is giving importance to OBC and EBC voters and Kushwaha’s support would be helpful to the BJP in next year’s elections.