Cracks within Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) came to the fore on Monday, with two of its MLAs in Bihar making a surprise appearance in the BJP legislature party meeting in Patna last night.
The BJP leaders remained tight-lipped about the development, but sources within the party said on condition of anonymity that their presence at the meeting was a resounding snub to Mr Kushwaha.
One of the lawmakers, Sudhansu Shekhar, had recently visited Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s residence, triggering angry reactions from Mr Kushwaha, who has since been accusing the Janata Dal (United) president of trying to poach his MLAs.
Earlier in the day, outside the Assembly premises, Mr Shekhar told reporters: “I had met CM Kumar and there is nothing unusual in that. Legislators from all parties do meet the chief minister to discuss problems relating to their respective constituencies and I did nothing wrong.”
In response to a query regarding Mr Kushwaha’s ultimatum to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to finalise a seat-sharing deal by Friday, Mr Shekhar cryptically remarked: “I am going to remain in the NDA.”
The other RLSP lawmaker, Lalan Paswan, launched a scathing attack on Mr Kushwaha, terming him incapable of managing two MLAs and an MP, let alone an entire party.
“Mr Kushwaha calls Nitish Kumar his elder brother and yet has all sorts of problems with the latter. He, however, feels no discomfort in paying obeisance to RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav,” Mr Paswan, who was suspended from the RLSP two years ago, said.
Mr Paswan had joined a parallel outfit floated by rebel Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar, but technically continues to be an MLA of Kushwaha’s party.
“He goes on whining that he is being insulted in the NDA, that he deserves a respectable treatment. Whom is he trying to fool? He is a member of the Union council of ministers in the NDA government. Do people get appointed ministers out of disrespect?” Mr Paswan asked sarcastically.
Besides the two MLAs, the party’s Sitamarhi MP, Ram Kumar Sharma, had recently stated that he was in favour of the RLSP remaining in the NDA and, in an obvious hint of his future preferences, said he was in constant touch with Nitish Kumar.
Meanwhile, flustered by the developments within his five-year-old party, Mr Kushwaha announced on Twitter yesterday that he had sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi between Tuesday and Friday.
The development comes at a time when Mr Kushwaha has raised the pitch for respect within the NDA and allocation of a respectable number of seats to his party for the 2019 general election.
The RLSP had won three Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
Mr Kushwaha has recently met RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and senior leader Sharad Yadav, which triggered speculation of his leaving the NDA for the Grand Alliance.