Amid buzz that former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may join hands again, following their recent meeting in Patna four days ago, the RLSP chief on Sunday downplayed the speculations as “premature guesswork”.
Mr Kushwaha said he had a cordial meeting with Mr Kumar earlier in the week but denied hammering out a deal for the homecoming. He, however, did not rule out the possibility of a reunion in future.
Political circles had indicated that Mr Kushwaha may merge his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) with the ruling Janata Dal (United), and he would subsequently be inducted into the state cabinet as a member of the legislative council.
The new NDA government, under which Kumar was sworn in on November 16, has 14 ministers in the cabinet, including the chief minister. As per constitutional provisions, Bihar cabinet can accommodate up to 36 members. Many ministerial slots, hence, are still lying vacant.
“It’s a wild speculation…I am not hankering for a ministerial post or a legislative council seat. We had a good meeting… we talked about the latest political situation. Beyond that, any guess has no basis,” Mr Kushwaha told PTI.
The RLSP chief further said that Mr Kumar had invited him to his bungalow “to explore the option of working together”, which he willingly accepted.
Asked about the possibility of a reunion, Mr Kushwaha said “there is no such plan as of now…but who knows what happens tomorrow.”
Shortly after the meeting, Mr Kushwaha, whose RLSP fought in alliance with the BSP and the AIMIM in the recently concluded Bihar polls, had launched a scathing attack on RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav for making a “personal attack” on the chief minister during a brief assembly session last month.
JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, without getting into the details of what transpired in the December 2 meeting, said, “(Mr) Kushwaha believes in the same ideology as the ruling party and if he takes a decision to join hands with us, it would be a good one…”
The RLSP might have drawn a blank in the October-November state elections, but caste dynamics in Bihar suggests that Kushwaha, a relatively empowered OBC group, may add to Mr Kumar’s political heft.
After parting ways with Lalu Prasad in 1998, Mr Kumar had forged a powerful “Luv-Kush” partnership with Kurmi and Mr Kushwaha castes coming together as a potent OBC block against electorally significant Yadavs.
Mr Kumar had made Mr Kushwaha the leader of the opposition in 2004, though he was a first-time MLA, ignoring many legislators who had suggested otherwise.
With time, Mr Kushwaha turned a rebel and parted ways with Mr Kumar to form his own party.
The RLSP later became a part of the BJP-led NDA before 2014 general election and Kushwaha was made a member of the Narendra Modi 1.0 government.
But, the return of the JD(U) to the NDA fold in July 2017 changed equations once again, and the RLSP quit the coalition and became a part of the RJD-headed Grand Alliance.
The Mahagathbandhan, however, suffered severe drubbing in the 2019 parliamentary polls and Mr Kushwaha lost the election from Karakat and Ujiyarpur Lok Sabha seats.
Weeks before the 2020 Bihar assembly elections, he walked out of the Mahagathbandhan and floated a six-party front, with Uttar Pradesh leader Mayawati and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi as its prominent members.
The front failed miserably, but AIMIM managed to bag five seats in the Muslim-dominated Seemachal region, emerging as a new force in Bihar politics.