Updated: March 15, 2021 7:15:55 am
The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), which was formed by Upendra Kushwaha in 2013, merged with the JD(U) on Sunday. The move comes nine years after Kushwaha had fallen out with JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The Indian Express had first reported about the merger on March 2 and had noted that Kushwaha was likely to get a key organisational role in the JD(U). Kushwaha’s merger with the JD(U) is being seen as a major consolidation bid by Nitish for OBC Luv-Kush (Kurmi-Koeri) votes, with the community numbering about 10 per cent of Bihar’s population.
On Sunday, Nitish said the union of the two parties will make the JD(U) all the more stronger and named Kushwaha the chairman of its parliamentary board – a post which had not been previously given to any leader. He said, “Now that Upendra Kushwaha has come back to us, the party would get only stronger. We would work together with more energy… We are appointing him as the party’s parliamentary board chairman with immediate effect.”
Kushwaha reciprocated by referring to Nitish as his “elder brother”. “JD(U) is my old home. Now whatever ups and downs have to come in my political life, they have to be under our leader Nitish Kumar.”
When asked to comment on speculation that Upendra’s wife was offered an MLC berth in Bihar, he told reporters, “I have come to JD(U) without any condition and do not do political bargaining.”
Most of the JD(U) rank and file seems enthused with Kushwaha’s return to the party, but it will be interesting to see how he treads between the two JD(U) heavyweights – Nitish and the party’s national president, R C P Singh.
After Prashant Kishor’s tiff with Singh which led to his eventual ouster, the JD(U) has been treading cautiously on the demarcation of power between its two strong leaders after Nitish Kumar. A new post has been carved out specifically for Kushwaha not only to suit someone of his stature but also to ensure that he reports directly to Nitish on most issues, rather than Singh.
Kushwaha had left the JD(U) on two occasions in the past – once in 2007, when he became part of the Rashtriya Samata Party till 2009, and after reconciling with Nitish, he once again parted ways with the JD(U) in 2013.
In 2014, Kushwaha joined the NDA and the RLSP successfully contested from three seats in the general elections, with Kushwaha emerging victorious from the Karakat seat. However, in the 2015 Bihar polls, the RLSP performed poorly and thus lost its bargaining power with the JD(U).
In 2019, the RLSP contested the general elections as a constituent of the Grand Alliance but could not win a single seat. After a couple of years in the political wilderness, Kushwaha is back in the spotlight.
Explained: Luv-Kush consolidation
The JD(U) was relegated to the third position in the 2020 Bihar polls after it managed to win only 43 seats, behind the RJD (75) and the BJP (74)., Kushwaha’s re-entry is being seen as a consolidating factor to cement its core constituency of Luv-Kush. The JD(U) may also nurture him as the party’s leader for the 2025 polls because of his long political career.
It is also a win-win situation for Kushwaha as he had exhausted his political options of late, and Sunday’s merger is likely his last political gambit.
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