In a significant development in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday evening met with old colleague-turned-political rival Upendra Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) to explore ways and means for a merger with the Janata Dal (U).
Mr. Kushwaha has held two other meetings with senior JD(U) leaders and is likely to firm up arrangements for the merger in the next few weeks, said sources in the know.
“He [Mr. Kushwaha] has been speaking to former Bihar unit chief of the BJP Bashistha Narayan Singh and met with Nitish Kumar at 1, Anne Marg in Patna on Sunday evening. He was earlier insisting on alliance, but with no MLAs that question is moot with no election in sight; therefore a merger is what was discussed,” said a source.
Mr. Kushwaha’s party fought the Bihar Assembly election as part of an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Mulsimeen and the Jantantrik Party (Socialist), but did not win a seat. “His party however did manage to damage the JD(U)’s prospects in many seats, especially the Shahbad and Buxar areas,” said a source.
“With Mewalal Choudhary resigning as Minister as his appointment in the wake of corruption allegations was found politically untenable, we have no Kushwaha representative in the Bihar Cabinet. There are 12 seats in the legislative Council to be nominated by the Governor coming up and Upendraji could well be accommodated,” said the source.
Interestingly, a team from the Bihar BJP is in New Delhi on Monday to finalise their party’s nominees for these MLC seats and to discuss the expansion of the State Cabinet.
The Bihar Assembly poll saw the JD(U) shrink from its earlier footprint, a situation that arose, say party leaders, because of the scatter of old socialist Janata family votes and the rebellion by Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan. “Upendra Kushwaha too hasn’t been able to gain much outside of JD(U), and ‘unka ab maanas ban chuka hai ki saath kaam karna zaroori hai’ [he is now convinced that it is important to work together],” said a senior source in the JD(U).