The dinner of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders on Thursday, the first since chief minister Nitish Kumar came back to the alliance in July 2017, turned into a show of strength with leaders of all constituent parties participating. But the president of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Upendra Kushwaha, who is also a Central minister, skipped the event.
Kushawaha, one of the first to demand discussion on the distribution of seats for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, reportedly told Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai about his inability to attend due to “some urgent work” even as his party was represented by former union minister Nagmani and other party leaders.
Senior leaders of constituents of the ruling NDA in Bihar — BJP, Janata Dal (United), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) — were present, sending signal of unity to the opposition. However, event hosted by the BJP was confined only to dinner with no discussion on any issues raised by some parties of the alliance in the recent past.
The dinner was keenly watched following the JD(U) seeking a prominent role for the party in the Lok Sabha polls, and chief minister Nitish Kumar raising concerns over some central government schemes. Kumar , for the first time after returning to the NDA fold, had sought special status for Bihar that entitles tax rebates and more money from the central government.
“Bihar hasn’t got the special package. We are with the NDA for larger interest of the state. BJP has to get more responsible,” JD (U) leader Shyam Rajak said before the dinner. He reiterate the party’s stand to contest in no less than 25 Lok Sabha seats. “If NDA wants to benefit from Nitish Kumar’s clean image, it has to do justice to JD(U) and the chief minister’s work,” he said.
Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha and in the 2009 general elections, the JD(U) contested 25 seats and rest had BJP candidates. In 2014, both contested separately with JD(U) winning only two seats and the BJP getting 22. The LJP and RLSP contested in alliance with the BJP and won six out of seven and three out of three seats they contested, respectively.
Nitish Kumar sat along with deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav, union minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, his son Chirag Paswan, BJP state president Nityanand Rai, union minister Ravishankar Prasad, Radha Mohan Singh, Ashwini Chowbey and Ram Kripal Yadav.
Kumar left the dinner without speaking to the media.
Earlier in the day, NDA leaders familiar with the matter said that Kushwaha is perhaps miffed over the projection of Nitish Kumar as the NDA’s face in Bihar and is unhappy with the chief minister’s growing influence in the alliance. Secondly, the presence of MP Arun Kumar, who leads the dissident faction of the RLSP made Kushwaha uncomfortable, they said.
The dissenting note within the NDA came a day after LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan dismissed speculations of a rift over the issue of seat-sharing for next year’s Lok Sabha elections. Paswan asserted that the BJP-led coalition was “intact” in the state.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times