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Upendra Kushwaha’s ‘chance’ meeting with Tejashwi Yadav sets sparks flying

Upendra Kushwaha and Tejashwi Yadav held “closed door” talks for about 15 minutes.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2018 12:01 IST
Hindustan Times, Patna
Tejashwi Yadav,Upendra Kushwaha,Bihar
The meeting sparked new speculation about Kushwaha’s relationship status with the NDA.(ANI/Twitter)

Minutes after BJP chief Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appeared together in Delhi on Friday to announce they would contest an equal number of seats in next year’s Lok Sabha election in Bihar, one of their partners met opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav at a circuit house in the state’s Arwal.

Upendra Kushwaha - who heads the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) and is a Union minister of state as a member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) - and Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal held “closed door” talks for about 15 minutes.

The meeting sparked new speculation about Kushwaha’s relationship status with the NDA. He had only days ago dismissed buzz that he was poised to exit the NDA ahead of next year’s general elections, telling the Hindustan Times that his party is “strongly committed to ensure Narendra Modi’s re-election as Prime Minister for the next five years.”

Kushwaha said Friday’s was “nothing but a chance meeting as Tejashwi was also staying at the circuit house.” The RJD leader was in Arwal in connection with his ongoing Nyaya Yatra.

RJD leader Ramanuj Prasad Yadav, however, said, “We are ready to welcome all forces opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the RLSP chief, with open arms. He has to take a call.”

Another RJD leader, not willing to be quoted, insisted that Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), the BJP’s fourth partner in Bihar, spoke on the phone to Tejashwi shortly after the BJP and JD(U) bosses addressed the media. However, LJP spokesperson, Shrawan Kumar Agarwal categorically denied any such talks.

In Delhi, as Shah announced that Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal(United) and the BJP would contest an equal number of seats next year, he also made it clear that all partners would have to settle for less.

“Other allies will also get a respectable seat share,” Shah announced but made it clear that they will have to settle for fewer seats than the 2014 elections.

“When a new partner joins, you have to sacrifice... There will be a reduction in seats for everyone,” Shah said and underscored that there was a consensus among the four NDA partners in Bihar on this principle.

Kushwaha’s party had been demanding a larger seat share in the NDA which he says should be commensurate with the growing base of the RLSP. It has been uneasy relationship ever since the JD(U) returned to the NDA fold in July last year.

The RLSP leader has been critical of the Nitish Kumar government, especially on law and order and education, and had in August fuelled intense speculation when he said that a “delicious kheer can be prepared with milk from the Yadavs (the RJD’s base) and rice from the Kushwahas.”

He has since said that he was misunderstood by people who thought his comments signalled an alliance. It had, he said, only “social intent.”

On Friday, the minister would only say, “Let the number of seats be declared. I have also talked to Amit Shah.”

The RLSP has three MPs including Kushwaha in the Lok Sabha. Chirag Paswan’s LJP has six. In 2014, with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) out of the NDA fold, the BJP had contested 30 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, while the RLSP had contested three and the LJP seven. The BJP had won 22, and together the allies took 31 seats.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 22:49 IST