This Article is From Apr 21, 2023

"No Challenge To PM Modi In 2024": Nitish Kumar's Former Aide Meets Amit Shah

Upon returning from Delhi, Upendra Kushwaha also scoffed at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's efforts to achieve "opposition unity"

'No Challenge To PM Modi In 2024': Nitish Kumar's Former Aide Meets Amit Shah

Mr ushwaha had formerly been an NDA ally, while he was heading Rashtriya Lok Samata Party.


Former JD(U) parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha, who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah the previous day, on Friday asserted that he saw “no challenge” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Talking to reporters at the airport upon returning from Delhi, Mr Kushwaha also scoffed at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's efforts to achieve “opposition unity”, pointing out that only those parties were with the JD(U) supreme leader with whom he had an alliance in the state.

“You all are free to make speculations. I will disclose only as much as I deem proper”, Mr Kushwaha said when asked by reporters as to what transpired during his conversation with Shah on Thursday evening.

To a pointed query as to whether entry into the NDA was on the agenda, Mr Kushwaha, who formed Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal after breaking away with JD(U) a few months ago, said “I do not find myself in the position to divulge many details. When the time comes, I will speak more”.

Notably, Mr Kushwaha had formerly been an NDA ally, while he was heading Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, and enjoyed a ministerial berth in the first Narendra Modi ministry. He quit the BJP-led coalition ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and sided with the ‘Mahagathbandhan' which then included RJD, Congress and a couple of other smaller parties.

However, he grew disillusioned by the time assembly polls were scheduled a year later, and he fought the elections as part of a motley coalition, comprising Mayawati's BSP and Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM.

Mr Kushwaha was humiliated at the hustings as, despite him being projected as the “Chief Ministerial candidate” of the alliance, his RLSP drew a blank. A few months later, he returned to the JD(U), which he had quit in 2013, and merged the RLSP.

Although he was rewarded with a fancy-sounding party post and a berth in the legislative council that helped him come out of political wilderness, Mr Kushwaha grew disenchanted with Nitish Kumar after the latter ruled him out for the post of the Deputy Chief Minister beside RJD's Tejashwi Yadav.

In his early 60s, Mr Kushwaha, who belongs to Koeri caste, the most numerous group after the Yadavs, quit the JD(U) alleging that Kumar has struck a “deal” with the RJD whereby Yadav will replace him as Chief Minister while he will himself move to Delhi and concentrate on national politics.

Asked about the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Mr Kushwaha said “I reiterate that as of now there is no challenge to Narendra Modi. As regards the efforts of Nitish Kumar, I wonder what people are making out of that. When he visits Delhi, only parties like Congress and RJD seem to rally around him. These parties are already his allies in Bihar. There is nothing worth noticing in that”.

Meanwhile, the RJD, which has been left sore by Mr Kushwaha's raking up memories of "jungle raj" during the Lalu-Rabri regime, hit out.

“We had always said that Mr Kushwaha has an affair with the BJP. After this meeting with Shah, he must disclose what is the deal he struck. He used to accuse us of having struck a deal with Nitish Kumar”, said RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari.

Notably, Mr Kushwaha's meeting with Shah comes barely a week after the Union Home Minister met former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, who heads the Hindustani Awam Morcha.

Unlike Mr Kushwaha, Manjhi is at present firmly with the ‘Mahagathbandhan' and his son Santosh Kumar Suman is a minister in the state cabinet.

Nonetheless, the developments are being viewed with interest in the political circles here, in light of the BJP's obvious need for allies in Bihar where it is left with very few.

 Moreover, with the Nitish Kumar government trumpeting the headcount of castes it is undertaking, and Rahul Gandhi's open support to a “caste census” and breaking the 50 per cent barrier in quotas, the ‘Mahagathbandhan' seems poised to galvanise the numerically powerful OBCs in its favour in the Lok Sabha polls next year.

The BJP pins its hopes on a combination of hard Hindutva besides weaning away a slice of votes of Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs.

Mr Kushwaha belongs to the Koeri caste, the most populous OBC group after the Yadavs. Moreover, the party recently appointed another Koeri, Samrat Chaudhary, a relative newcomer, as the state unit chief.

The NDA had, in 2019, won 39 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. Of these 22 were won by the JD(U). Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP, now split up into squabbling factions led by Union minister Pashupati Kumar Paras and the late founder's son Chirag Paswan, had contributed six seats to the NDA kitty. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)