Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha, chief of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, an ally of the BJP, has been openly voicing sympathy for jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his family, triggering speculation that he is likely to jump onto the RJD bandwagon.Kushwaha, a soft spoken politician, has repeatedly expressed his sympathy for Lalu Prasad and his family in the last two weeks -- unlike the BJP and its other allies including JD-U and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and LJP chief and Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan.On Monday too, he publicly expressed his sympathy for the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo and his family. "I have sympathy for Lalu and his family. They are passing through a difficult phase," Kushwaha said while surrounded by his party leaders and workers.He advised Lalu Prasad and his family to cooperate with the judicial process as the "court and law will do its own work".Last week Kushwaha had said that he and his party have full sympathy for the family of Lalu Prasad, who was sentenced to three and a half years jail in a fodder scam case by a special CBI court in Ranchi.
"I and my party have full sympathy with the family of Lalu Prasad," Kushwaha said here.He said there is no need to say anything on the verdict of the court against Lalu Prasad. "Court has been doing its work and no one should say anything on the issue."Kushwaha, who belongs to the powerful OBC Koeri caste which is the largest social group after Lalu Prasad's Yadav caste in Bihar, is reportedly not comfortable with the BJP and Nitish Kumar.Kushwaha in the past has raised the issue of making caste-based census public. "It should be made public because people from different castes are eagerly waiting to know their exact numbers."Last year Lalu Prasad had repeatedly demanded that caste-based census be made public. He had made it an election issue in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls to consolidate the backward castes.RJD senior leaders say that Lalu Prasad has no problem in projecting Upendra Kushwaha as the chief ministerial candidate in the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls after the two parties join hands.
However, they insist the RLSP chief would have to walk out of the NDA to contest the next Lok Sabha polls with the RJD. "Both Lalu Prasad and Upendra Kushwaha have held discussion on it," an RJD leader said.Last year, a senior RLSP leader Nagmani mooted the idea of projecting Kushwaha as the next Chief Minister of Bihar at a party rally organised here.Earlier, much to the surprise of BJP, the RLSP had demanded that Kushwaha be declared NDA's chief ministerial candidate for the Bihar Assembly polls in 2015.
According to RLSP leaders, the party chief has been eyeing the Chief Minister's chair and could change sides for it.In this backdrop, Kushwaha's sympathy for Lalu Prasad could be an alarm bell for the BJP and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) of Nitish Kumar."Laluji will have no problem in promoting Upendra Kushwaha as the chief ministerial candidate in case he join hands with him...It's simple. Laluji's younger son and former Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav is young...He can wait for a few years," a senior RJD leader said.Kushwaha was reportedly upset that despite the RLSP being an NDA constituent, Nitish Kumar had refused to induct ministers from the party in his cabinet in July last year after he formed a new government with the BJP.What irked Kushwaha more was that Nitish Kumar informed BJP leaders that he would keep RLSP out of the government and the BJP is believed to have kept mum on the issue."BJP ally LJP's leader Pashupati Kumar Paras (younger brother of Union Minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan) was inducted into the Cabinet of Nitish Kumar when Paras was not even a member of the legislative assembly. He was defeated in the 2015 assembly polls. But Paswan put pressure on the BJP to accommodate him in the cabinet," an RLSP leader said.
It is widely known that Nitish Kumar has strong reservations about Kushwaha, who has repeatedly attacked and targeted him in the last three years. Kushwaha is a friend-turned-foe of Nitish Kumar in Bihar politics.Kushwaha is said to be unhappy with top BJP leaders and uncomfortable with Nitish Kumar's JD-U's entry into the NDA."He (Upendra Kushwaha) had refused to resign from the Union Cabinet after being asked by BJP President Amit Shah during the last reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet... It was embarrassing for him," an RLSP leader said.In all probability, if party leaders are to be believed, the RLSP chief is set to jump onto the RJD bandwagon.
In the caste-ridden politics of Bihar, Lalu Prasad is planning a new social engineering by wooing Kushwaha. In Bihar, Koeris comprise around seven-eight per cent votes.Lalu Prasad is aware that his own castemen Yadavs and Muslims are with him and the support of Koeris could change the political arithmetic in the state.Besides Kushwaha, the RJD is also trying to rope in former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, President of Hindustan Awami Morcha. Manjhi, a Mahadalit, is reportedly unhappy with the BJP after he was left in the lurch despite repeated promises to place him either in the Union Cabinet or in a Raj Bhavan.