Allies jostle amid NDA unity poser

Upendra Kushwaha's criticism of state govt indicates political churn in run-up to Lok Sabha polls

By Dipak Mishra in Patna
  • Published 17.10.17
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RUMBLINGS: Union minister of state and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha at the Education Improvement Resolution conference at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Sunday. (PTI )

Patna: Union minister and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha's open criticism of chief minister Nitish Kumar at a rally on Sunday, blaming him for the education system's "collapse" in Bihar, is an indication of rumblings in the NDA.

The JDU reacted instantly. "Just holding a rally in Gandhi Maidan means nothing," JDU leader Sanjay Singh said.

Backing Kushwaha is another NDA partner - former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. Manjhi held "successive governments" responsible for the state of education in Bihar. To add to the NDA's worries, former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav tweeted praise for Kushwaha for the rally on falling education standards in Bihar.

The BJP rushed with statements in defence. "If anyone is responsible for the collapse of education in Bihar it is the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi regime," said a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named. "But this is more of a call for political realignment."

Ever since the JDU rejoined NDA there were murmurs about old allies like Manjhi, Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan feeling uncomfortable. While Paswan showed no signs of revolt, Majhi and Kushwaha have indicated their discontent. "Manjhi is not happy over not being politically accommodated and Kushwaha is restless because he sees himself as the next chief minister," said a BJP leader, insisting that an alliance with Nitish and Paswan was enough for the NDA to sail through in Bihar.

A day before Nitish urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare Patna University a central varsity, Kushwaha had issued a statement saying the university should be accorded central varsity status. But Modi ignored the appeals.

The BJP leader said Manjhi and Kushwaha were unpredictable and could chose either side - depending on their political convenience. The realignment process has begun early because the RLSP and HAM know they have little elbowroom to negotiate for seats during Lok Sabha polls after failing to deliver in the 2015 Assembly polls.

RJD sources said party chief Lalu Prasad was not sitting idle in Delhi. "We have reports that he has struck a deal with BSP chief Mayawati and is likely to give her two seats near the UP border in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls," said an RJD leader, stressing that his party was in search of allies as it knew an alliance with the Congress was not enough to take on the NDA in the polls. He also said the RJD would go beyond the Muslim-Yadav combination. That is where leaders like Kushwaha and Manjhi come in. "But the question being asked in the party is if the two can deliver in an RJD-led alliance or fail again, like they did in the BJP-led alliance," the RJD leader said.