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Days after Amit Shah claimed ‘consensus’ on seat-sharing, Upendra Kushwaha signals all not well in NDA

In Patna, RLSP leaders said Kushwaha may agree to stay in the NDA only if the party is given three Lok Sabha seats to contest, including Ujiyarpur, currently held by BJP state president Nityanand Rai.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: October 31, 2018 6:55:54 am
Days after Amit Shah claimed ‘consensus’ on seat-sharing, Upendra Kushwaha signals all not well in NDA Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha in New Delhi. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

FOUR DAYS after BJP president Amit Shah and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addressed the media together and underscored the ostensible “consensus” among NDA partners over seat-sharing in Bihar for next year’s General Election, ally and Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha on Tuesday indicated that all is not well within the ruling coalition.

Kushwaha met BJP general secretary in-charge of Bihar Bhupender Yadav on Tuesday to apparently discuss seat-sharing, and said the discussion was “positive but still incomplete — talks will happen again”.

Kushwaha reportedly met Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan at the latter’s residence later.

On Friday, Shah, in a joint press conference with Nitish, had said that all allies would have to make sacrifices to accommodate a new partner — referring to the return of JD(U) to the NDA. Kushwaha, whose relationship with Nitish is known as not exactly cordial, today said, “I respect his (Shah’s) statement. We are ready for sacrifice. (But) all partners should share all benefits and losses. I understand that the alliance with the JD(U) has benefited the NDA. Then why can’t we share the benefits in Bihar?…Partnership should be equal in profit as well as loss.”

While the LJP is part of the Nitish Kumar-led government, the RLSP is not.

Sources said the BJP and JD(U) are likely to contest on 17 seats each, while the LJP may get four seats and RLSP two. The RLSP had won all three seats it contested in 2014 as a part of the NDA.

On his “cordial” meeting with Bhupender Yadav, Kushwaha said he conveyed to the senior BJP leader that people of Bihar want a “respectable” arrangement among the NDA partners. “I told them (BJP leaders) to finalise something that is respectable to people’s aspirations. Talks were positive but still incomplete. Talks will happen again,” he said.

He added, “Talks can take place with Bhupendra Yadav, Amit Shah or, if necessary, even with PM Narendra Modi.”

Sources in BJP said the party will make “all efforts” to placate Kushwaha, who, they said, has been miffed since the JD(U)’s return to the NDA. “The BJP does not want to antagonise any alliance partners. We will convince them (allies) to be pragmatic when we are fighting a crucial electoral battle,” a leader said.

Within hours of Shah’s press meet in Delhi Friday, Kushwaha had created a stir with an “unscheduled meet” with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav at Arwal in Bihar. Calling it an “informal” meeting, the RLSP chief said, “We both happened to stay in the government Circuit House after our respective events in Arwal. Tejashwi Yadav came to my room. There was nothing political.” He said they held no private discussion and many people were present there.

In Patna, RLSP leaders said Kushwaha may agree to stay in the NDA only if the party is given three Lok Sabha seats to contest, including Ujiyarpur, currently held by BJP state president Nityanand Rai. “Our leader does not agree with the BJP’s formula of allies sacrificing to accommodate the JD(U),” an RLSP leader said.

(WITH ENS, PATNA)

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