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Upendra Kushwaha, Sharad Yadav may merge parties ahead of 2019 elections

Kushwaha, who set a November 30 deadline for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to finalise its seat-sharing formula between the National Democratic Alliance partners in Bihar, did not receive any response from the party, the first leader added.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2018 08:25 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Upendra Kushwaha,Sharad Yadav,2019 elections
Union minister and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha with expelled JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav in New Delhi. (PTI)

Union minister Upendra Kushwaha and expelled Janta Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav are discussing a merger of their parties ahead of next summer’s parliamentary elections, according to two leaders from Bihar familiar with the development who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kushwaha leads the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), and Yadav is the patron of the Loktantrik Janta Dal, which was formed in July.

If a new party is born out of the merger of the two outfits, it will also try for “understandings”, “alliances” and possibly “mergers” with other parties outside the state, said one of the two leaders cited above.

Kushwaha, who set a November 30 deadline for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to finalise its seat-sharing formula between the National Democratic Alliance partners in Bihar, did not receive any response from the party, the first leader added.

When contacted, an RSLP leader said Kushwaha is expected to make “some announcement” about his future course of action at his party’s convention at Motihari in Bihar on Thursday.

“Yadav and Kushwaha have discussed a merger. It is in an advanced stage, and a formal announcement could be expected any time after December 6,” said the second Bihar leader cited above.

Kushwaha has also reached out to Raju Shetty, a farmer-leader from Maharashtra, who confirmed that the RSLP leader discussed an alliance ahead of the 2019 elections . “We share good rapport as we were part of the NDA,” said Shetty, who leads the Swabhimani Paksha. He left the BJP-led ruling alliance in 2017, accusing it of cheating farmers o on the issue of minimum support price. “He [Kushwaha] didn’t propose for any kind of merger of the two parties but offered to have an alliance for the coming polls. He is currently not happy in the NDA,” Shetty said.

The first Bihar leader said some other parties from Uttar Pradesh have also been approached but declined to give more details.

Kushwaha, a protégé-turned-rival of CM Nitish Kumar, comes from the backward Koeri community, which accounts for roughly 5-6% of Bihar’s population and has significant presence in 25-30 assembly segments.

The RLSP fielded four candidates in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and won three seats. But questions were raised about Kushwaha’s appeal among his own community after the RLSP lost 21 out of 23 seats it contested in the 2015 assembly elections.

Yadav, too, was in Kumar’s JD(U), but was expelled from the party last year after he revolted against Nitish Kumar’s decision to dump Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and join hands with BJP.

Kushwaha has kept the BJP guessing over whether he will continue in the NDA after indications that he might have to take a cut in his share of seats to accommodate the JD(U) into the alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The RJD, which has held meetings with Kushwaha, indicated that it is ready to contest fewer seats if that allows more space to be created for new partners.

Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, feel a merger of the parties of Kushwaha and Yadav will have a negative impact on the NDA. In case the new party contests separately and tries to make Bihar battle a three-corner contest, it will certainly take away some votes away from the NDA, given that Kushwaha was part of the NDA in 2014, he said.

The BJP has refused to comment over the development.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 00:02 IST