Patna: Top NDA leaders in Bihar on Thursday attended a grand feast hosted in Patna by the BJP on completion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four years in power.
They asserted that the coalition would continue its winning streak in the Lok Sabha polls due next year, even as alliance partner RLSP struck a note of discord.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan and Radha Mohan Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and BJP’s national general secretary in-charge of Bihar Bhupendra Yadav were prominent among those who attended the get-together.
The meeting happened to be the first such function held after the return of Kumar who is also the JD(U) national president to the BJP-led coalition a year earlier.
Speculations were rife that matters relating to sharing of seats in the general elections would be discussed at the function, which lasted for almost two hours.
However, most leaders left the venue after having dinner, without speaking to the media or addressing functionaries of the various parties which constitute the NDA in the state.
The NDA in Bihar comprises, besides JD(U) and BJP, the Lok Janshakti Party headed by Paswan and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Union minister Upendra Kushwaha who skipped the meeting.
Paswan’s son and LJP parliamentary board chief Chirag Paswan said, “With today’s function, we have made a great beginning. That we all stand solidly together was evident and soon we shall be looking forward to chalking out of our strategy for Lok Sabha polls.”
He also sought to downplay Kushwaha’s surprise decision to stay away from the gathering, saying all issues, including sharing of seats, would be amicably settled in due course.
State health minister and former Bihar BJP chief Mangal Pandey said not much should be read into the absence of Kushwaha who could not come because of unavoidable circumstances. “Please note that his party was duly represented here. The opposition will be severely disappointed, and even worried, by this show of solidarity,” he said.
Union minister and BJP leader Ram Kripal Yadav also said all is well in the NDA.
RLSP working president Nagamani, who had issued a statement earlier in the day demanding that the next Lok Sabha polls and Bihar Assembly elections be fought under the leadership of Kushwaha, told reporters before leaving the venue, “I stick to my stand”. “Kushwahas have a large population. Nitish Kumar has a distinct disadvantage on this count. The NDA should pay heed to our suggestion,” Nagamani said.
Both Kushwaha and Nagamani happen to be former associates of Kumar but both of them fell out with the Bihar chief minister at different points of time.
Kushwaha formed the RLSP in 2013 after resigning from the JD(U) from which he had been suspended for anti-party activities.
Nagamani has been associated with the Congress, the JD(U) and its earlier avatar, the Samata Party, besides Lalu Prasad’s RJD until he found an anchor in the RLSP, which has been striving to bring Kushwahas a sizeable community but without commensurate political clout – on one platform.