- Upendra Kushwaha said he is "more than willing" grand alliance
- "People of the NDA have become arrogant," he had said
- He also urged Ram Vilas Paswan's party to pull out of NDA
Bihar leader Upendra Kushwaha, who quit the NDA last week after months of wavering, has joined forces with the opposition, the Congress announced this evening. The former Union Minister and the leader of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party or RLSP had accused the BJP of "arrogance" after the party chose to keep Nitish Kumar happy at the cost of the smaller allies like Mr Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan.
"We had said that we have many options and UPA was one of them. The wholeheartedness shown by Rahul Gandhi and Lalu Yadav is one of the reasons I joined, but the biggest reason I'm here is the people of Bihar," Mr Kushwaha said after a press conference at the Congress headquarters in Delhi.
Mr Kushwaha had high praise for Rahul Gandhi yesterday as well, saying he has evolved into a mature leader and "is a likely option for replacing Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister next year".
This evening, the allies are expected to meet for discuss seat sharing. The Kushwaha community, which comprise 6 per cent of Bihar's voters, have traditionally supported the BJP. But the exit of Mr Kushwaha, who also enjoys considerable influence in the community, is expected to split their vote.
Mr Kushwaha exited the party after it was found that the 50:50 arrangement between Nitish Kumar and the BJP for Bihar's 40 seats has not left much for the other NDA allies. While no concrete figures have been officially announced, sources said both Mr Paswan and Mr Kushwaha will get fewer seats to contest than what they won in 2014.
For Mr Kushwaha, it meant that despite winning three seats - one more than Nitish Kumar - he would get to contest only on two. Mr Kumar and the BJP were likely to contest on 16 seats each.
The buzz about his quitting the NDA for better prospects offered by the Grand Alliance grew over days of his twitter banter with Tejashwi Yadav.
The young Leader of the Opposition, who was present at today's press conference, tweeted: "This is not the alliance of political parties, it is an alliance of the hearts of the people. It is the alliance of the new agreement of farmers and youths. This is the alliance of the commitment to social justice. This alliance is against dictatorship and mobocracy, it is the alliance for the people of the people."
The Mahagathbandhan family, he had added, is "growing" in Bihar.
Yesterday, Mr Kushwaha had urged Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party to quit the NDA after his son, Chirag Paswan, tweeted his unhappiness about seat sharing.
"Others will not be safe from this (the BJP's) arrogance either. The LJP must also come out of the alliance as soon as possible. These people have decided to destroy small parties, and if the LJP also gets the same feeling, they must exit the alliance at the earliest too," Mr Kushwaha said.
Mr Paswan's party is pressing for six seats in the Lok Sabha and one in the Rajya Sabha and has warned that it won't settle for less.