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Bihar: Rift Widens Between Nitish, Upendra Kushwaha

Kushwaha, JD(U)'s parliamentary board chief, addressed a press conference here, accusing his political benefactor of having left open "no channel of communication", forcing him to wash dirty linen in public.

Nitish Kumar with Tejashwi Yadav
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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was on Friday left flustered by a can of worms opened by Upendra Kushwaha who was resurrected politically with re-induction into his JD(U) with a fancy-sounding party designation and a berth in the state legislature.

Kushwaha, JD(U)'s parliamentary board chief, addressed a press conference here, accusing his political benefactor of having left open "no channel of communication", forcing him to wash dirty linen in public.

Kushwaha demanded that the party chief Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan convene, at the earliest, a meeting of the national executive to discuss issues, including a "deal" that Kumar is rumoured to have entered into with the RJD while allying with the old rival.

The sulking MLC also repudiated allegations of thanklessness towards Kumar, claiming that it was the supreme leader who sought him out whenever in distress, and not the other way around. 

"He first made me return to JD(U) in 2009 after the party's drubbing in by-polls to over a dozen assembly seats. He again reached out, and this can be verified from my call records, after the party was mauled in the 2020 assembly polls", said Kushwaha who merged his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party with the JD(U).

Interacting with journalists elsewhere, Kumar reminded Kushwaha that the JD(U)'s tally fell drastically in the assembly polls "because we gave full support to those we were aligned with (BJP) but not a single vote of theirs was transferred to us".

"Why did he return if he was convinced that the party has become so weak?" asked the CM. 

Kumar also disclosed "he had been in touch with me for seven to eight months.....I had to overrule the objections from others in the party to enable his return".

The CM refused to comment when asked whether he thought the rebellion of Kushwaha was being instigated by the BJP, the ally he abandoned last year.

However, at his press conference, Kushwaha claimed that Kumar had asked him, by way of taunt when the two last met in December end, whether he was thinking of going with the BJP.

The 62-year-old JD(U) leader was evidently pained that Kumar was promoting Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, forgetting the slights from the RJD leader "half his own age" during the period the two parties were in warring camps.

Kushwaha recalled his association with Kumar dating back to Samata Party days to assert that he will not quit the JD(U) which would be akin to "a person giving up one's share in ancestral wealth".

The CM, however, made it clear that the party was not bothered by the mutinous leader's antics (party ko koi Matlab nahin hai).

Notably, voluntary exit from the party would cost Kushwaha his membership of the legislative council, where his tenure has four more years to go. Upon expulsion, though, he may continue as an unattached member.

Kushwaha also alleged that the party machinery was already at work to suppress his voice of dissent and he was being asked to stay away from functions held by other non-political organisations.

"I wonder whether the CM is able to exercise his judgment any more or is being manipulated by a coterie of people with vested interests", alleged Kushwaha whose return to JD(U) in March, 2021, had brought him out of political wilderness.

Interestingly, both Kumar and Kushwaha showed willingness to thrash out differences but put on each other the onus of initiating a dialogue.

Meanwhile, journalists at the residence of Kushwaha were left intrigued when, after the press conference, former JD(U) spokesman Ajay Alok walked down for a "courtesy call" and fulminated against the CM.

Alok, who was expelled because of perceived proximity to BJP, alleged that Kumar had lost his power of discernment (matibhram ke shikar ho gaye hain) and Kushwaha was right in deciding not to quit.

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