RLSP working president believes party has sway over larger population in Bihar, says ‘not being given our due’.
New Delhi: The working president of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, an NDA ally in Bihar, is unhappy with BJP chief Amit Shah.
Nagmani believes the BJP is giving more importance to Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister and JD(U) president, than the RLSP, which he says has a larger vote share in the state.
“On 12 July, the BJP president came to Bihar and met Nitish Kumar twice over lunch and breakfast. But he ignored us,” says Nagmani.
“We have more MPs than the JD(U) and have a larger vote share than Nitish Kumar. But we are not being given the due. This won’t work,” he says.
There is also talk that the RLSP is in touch with leaders of Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and may even switch sides if the BJP doesn’t accommodate their seat demands for 2019 elections.
Bihar’s caste math
The RLSP is considered to be a party of Kushwahas, also known as Koeris in Bihar. The community accounts for 10 per cent of the state’s population, and in 2014, the party sent three members to Parliament. RLSP chief, Upendra Kushwaha, is also a Union minister.
In contrast, Nitish belongs to the Kurmi caste, which accounts for 3 per cent of Bihar’s population, and neither of its two MPs is part of the Central government.
Until 2014, Nitish had full control of the Kushwahas. But ahead of the Lok Sabha elections that year, Upendra Kushwaha broke away from the JD(U), formed his own party and joined the NDA.
His party contested four seats and won three. Since then, the votes of the community have been divided largely between the JD(U) and the RLSP in the regions where these two parties have a presence. Now, noted Kushwaha leaders such as Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha and Nagmani have joined RLSP.
“With all the Kushwaha leaders in the RLSP, the party surely has a control over 10 per cent of the votes,” says Nagmani. “Going by caste, Nitish Kumar’s vote share is much lesser than us. We are the largest party after the RJD in Bihar in terms of vote bank.”
Reacting to Nagmani’s claims, senior JD(U) leader K.C. Tyagi says “We don’t need a certificate from a party. Nitish has been chosen by the people of Bihar.”
Over the past few weeks, the RLSP has been upfront when it comes to attacking its Bihar government ally.
Last week, on 26 July, Upendra Kushwaha said the next assembly elections in the state should not be contested with Nitish as the chief ministerial face.
“He has been the chief minister for 15 years, he should do bigger level politics now and leave the space for others,” he said.
Nagmani, speaking to ThePrint, too criticised Nitish for being ineffective on the health and education fronts.
“The first five years of Nitish Kumar as a chief minister were very fruitful for the state,” he said. “However, after that he has not been able to rule properly. Different sectors, especially health and education, have deteriorated under Nitish rule.”
RLSP’s alliance conundrum
The RLSP is demanding six seats in the state for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to accommodate all its senior leaders and wants the seat-sharing deal to get sealed as early as possible.
“Our leader has demanded that an agreement of seats must be reached much ahead of polls in the state, so that everyone gets enough time for preparation,” says Nagmani.
Sources say the party is also in touch with the RJD in case they don’t get a decent offer from the BJP. Two senior leaders — Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha and Nagmani — met Lalu Prasad in Mumbai a few weeks back to discuss the possibility of an alliance.
But Nagmani denies any such meeting. “This is not true. I never met Lalu Yadav and Bhagwan Singhji is anti-Lalu from the beginning,” he says.