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JD(U) suffered after allying with BJP in 2017: Nitish Kumar

BANKA: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday asserted that the JD(U)’s realignment with the BJP half a decade ago, which came to an abrupt end last year, had been to the detriment of his party.

The JD(U) leader was replying to queries from journalists in Banka district, which he visited as part of the ‘Samadhan Yatra’ mass outreach programme.

He was asked about the “open letter” to the party cadre from disgruntled parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha, who has convened a two-day meeting next week to discuss the “gradual erosion of support base” of the JD(U) and anxieties over a rumoured “deal” with the RJD, its current ally.

A visibly peeved Kumar sought to remind Kushwaha that the latter has been always rewarded by the party despite having ditched it repeatedly and “if he keeps airing his grievances in public then it will be construed as he has other plans for himself”.

When asked whether he thought Kushwaha was forcing his hand at the BJP’s behest, Kumar replied cryptically, “You can draw your conclusions. How much publicity this affair is getting… I have never seen such spotlight on my party”.

However, the wily leader indicated that he was giving a long rope to the intransigent party functionary saying, “I have said it and so has our national president that nobody needs to react to whatever he (Kushwaha) says”.

He, however, ridiculed Kushwaha for the repeated claim that the party was growing weak, pointing out that “our recent membership drive swelled the party ranks like never before”.

“The only instance when the party did suffer harm was during our alliance in 2017,” said Kumar, in an obvious reference to the BJP which he did not mention by name.

Recounting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls which JD(U) and BJP contested together, along with late Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and the clean sweep made by the NDA, Kumar referred to the trajectory followed by the saffron party thereafter.

“We had asked for three to four berths (in the Union cabinet) but they said they will not give more than one, so we did not join. In the assembly polls (in 2020) we supported them but the way a campaign was run against our (JDU) candidates…has there been any such precedent?” asked Kumar.

The reference was to the rebellion by the LJP, then headed by Paswan’s son Chirag, who fielded candidates in all seats contested by the JD(U) vowing to dislodge the CM from power.

Many of the candidates of the LJP were BJP rebels, some of them prominent office-bearers, and the JD(U) was hit hard, with its tally plummeting from more than 70 in 2015 to less than 45. “Let them (BJP) face the next elections and they will figure out where they stand,” said Kumar, who now heads the multi-party ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and braces for a “national role” in 2024 Lok Sabha polls wherein, he believes, a “united opposition” can defeat the seemingly invincible NDA.

Kumar also chided Kushwaha for becoming a killjoy for the JD(U) as well as the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and asserted, “He was with us all through when new formation was taking shape…I wonder what has gone wrong with him in the last couple of months. I have expressed willingness to talk it over if he had any unmet expectations but he seems disinclined.” Although Kushwaha had been one of the most combative leaders of the JD(U) in its war of words with the BJP, he has been in a sulk since Kumar made it clear that there would be no deputy CM besides Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD and also declared that the latter will “lead” the Mahagathbandhan in the next assembly polls.

Kushwaha, who had returned to the JD(U) in 2021 merging his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, in his open letter made a mention of “all former workers of the RLSP” triggering speculations that it was a call for exit from the party.

Kumar, however, seemed unfazed and said, “He has deserted the JD(U) twice in the past…if he wants to part ways again, nobody is going to stop him.”

Source: Press Trust of India

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