Kushwaha's DNA barb
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections mid-next year, the NDA is a divided house in Bihar with Union HRD minister Upendra Kushwaha of Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) training guns at JD (U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The acrimonious war of words ensued in the aftermath of BJP sealing a deal with JD (U), which provided that the two parties would contest an equal number of seats in the general elections in 2019, which in effect means that while BJP will forego some of the seats that it won in 2014, other alliance partners such as Kushwaha's RLSP and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), which were eyeing more seats this time around may in fact be given less number of seats to contest compared to the last election. And, this has upset Kushwaha whose party was given three seats to contest in the last Lok Sabha election and it won all the three. Ramvilas Paswan's LJP won six seats out of the seven it was given to contest. Miffed at the seat-sharing deal between Nitish Kumar and BJP President Amit Shah, Kushwaha began to vent his ire in the public. The day Nitish Kumar and Amit Shah held the meeting where the seat-sharing formula was worked out, Kushwaha was seen in the company of RJD's de facto chief Tej Pratap at a government guest house. Kushwaha dismissed the rumours of him joining hands with RJD and said it was a chance meeting. Subsequently, he said at a press conference that Nitish Kumar had confided in him that he would not become the Chief Minister after the 2020 Assembly elections in Bihar because he felt saturated with being in the power for so long. When media persons asked Nitish Kumar about the veracity of Kushwaha's claim, he reportedly said that one should keep the level of conversation high. On this, Kushwaha said that Nitish has called him 'mean' and that he felt hurt and would complain about it to BJP chief Amit Shah. Ever since Kushwaha has been sulking and complaining about Nitish Kumar's dream deal with BJP. He said Kushwaha and Kurmi (Nitish Kumar's caste) are descendants of Luv and Kush, the two sons of Lord Rama and his wife goddess Sita. Then, how come Kushwaha becomes mean, he asked. Reacting to the development, BJP top leadership maintained that Upendra Kushwaha is very much part of the NDA and it would look into the grievances shared by Kushwaha and find a mutually acceptable solution. Kushwaha had also raised the issue of Nitish Kumar's DNA, which was famously asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election campaign in Bihar. On the whole, there are some visible signs of fissure in the NDA fold in Bihar, which has 40 Lok Sabha constituencies and NDA had won 31 in the last general elections in the country.
Incidentally, the birthplace of goddess Sita happens to be the Lok Sabha constituency Sitamarhi which is represented by the Kushwaha's party in the current Lok Sabha. Adjacent to the Nepal border and about 130 km from Patna, Sitamarhi was in the news recently for a communal flare-up after Dusshera when some idol immersion processions allegedly came under attack from the minority community which has a sizeable population in the Indian side all along the Nepal border. Because of changed political scenario, even RJD which used to express solidarity with the minority community has stopped doing so for the fear of losing votes from the majority community. On Sunday, Bihar Chief Minister inaugurated the second tallest statue of Lord Buddha at Rajgir. But at a time when the governments in some states are ready with proposals to build huge statues of different historical and mythological personalities, one can't help wonder why Kushwaha is not seeking to install an iconic statue of goddess Sita at her birthplace despite he being a descendant of Kush, one of the twin sons of Sita. In view of the competition that NDA is going to face in the upcoming Lok Sabha election from the united opposition which has RJD, Congress and Communist parties, NDA does not seem to be on a strong footing. First of all, the anti-incumbency mood among the people is not hard to see, and secondly, RJD seems to be reclaiming the lost ground fast. RJD is also likely to benefit from the sympathy that Lalu Yadav's incarceration has generated among the people for his family and the party. Looking at these factors, it is not difficult to understand why Kushwaha is making all the noises that he is making; his analysis of the situation may have some solid logic.