Kushwaha; restless.

Upendra Singh Kushwaha and Nitish Kumar: A long love-hate relationship

Kushwaha to quit JD-U soon; revive RLSP which he merged with JD-U in 2021

Prashun Bhaumik | Patna | 24 January, 2023 | 11:10 PM

Nitish Kumar groomed Upendra Kushwaha starting from when the latter was a Lok Dal youth leader. But his restlessness and party hopping show Kushwaha is tired of waiting in the shadows.

He might have not been the most popular face in Bihar politics but has been, and is turning out to be, crucial to how the state’s electoral scenario might unfold in the future.

Janata Dal (United) parliamentary board chairman and MLC Upendra Kushwaha is likely to quit the party “by next month” and revive his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), which he had merged with the JD (U) in 2021, sources close to him told The Indian Express on Monday.

After bringing back the RLSP, they said, Kushwaya will move on to forge an alliance with the BJP, which was part of the JD(U)-led ruling dispensation until last August when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar snapped ties with it to join hands with the RJD and form the current Mahagathbandhan government.

The JD (U) leader had been in sulk mode ever since Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced his deputy and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav as his successor for the 2025 state polls, minced no words to show his disappointment with Nitish, who has also scotched any possibility of having two Deputy CMs, one of which could have been Kushwaha.

The intertwined journey with Nitish

While lesser known than Lalu Prasad, Kumar or the late Ram Vilas Paswan, Kushwaha, like them, learned his political ropes from socialist leaders Jayaprakash Narayan and Karpoori Thakur. The boy from Jandaha, Vaishali, was taken by Thakur under his tutelage. During his graduation days, Upendra even stayed with the two-time Bihar CM, who knew his social-worker father Muneshwar Singh very well. In subsequent years, Upendra, too, would host Thakur at his Jandaha home.

After his master’s degree course in political science, Upendra initially became a lecturer at a Jandaha college. In 1985, he joined the youth wing of the Lok Dal. Nitish, a first-time MLA from Harnaut in Nalanda district, was his senior, and Nitish’s “method politics”, meticulous file-work, dress sense and preparation for any political topic left a deep impact on the young Upendra. On Nitish’s suggestion, Upendra added Kushwaha to his name, the caste identity helping bolster his political standing. Kushwahas or Koeris comprise about 7% of the state population and are concentrated in East Champaran, West Champaran, Samastipur, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Khagaria, Nalanda and Munger.

Kushwaha made his electoral debut in 2000 winning from Jandaha, and soon became Nitish’s blue-eyed boy. After the Samata Party merged with the JD(U) and emerged as the largest opposition party in 2004, Nitish made Kushwaha the leader of the opposition.

However, Kushwaha’s ambition eventually took him away from Nitish, finally leading to his expulsion from the JD(U) in 2007. While Kushwaha formed the Rashtriya Samata Party in 2009, successive poll failures meant he had to return to Nitish. In 2009, Nitish sent him to the Rajya Sabha, but differences surfaced again over seat allocation. In January 2013, Kushwaha again left the JD(U) and this time floated Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).

When Nitish walked out of the NDA in June 2013, Kushwaha tied up with the alliance. In the 2014 general elections that followed, the RLSP won all the three seats it contested, riding on the Narendra Modi wave. Kushwaha was elected from Karakat and even became the Union minister of state in the significant Human Resource Development Ministry.

However, Kushwaha’s honeymoon lasted only till the 2015 Assembly polls, where the RLSP could win only two seats out of the 23 it contested. Nitish’s return to the NDA in July 2017 further diminished his value. When the NDA offered him just two seats to contest in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Kushwaha walked out. He entered the RJD-led Grand Alliance but drew a blank in the almost total washout of the Opposition in Bihar in that election.

In the 2020 Assembly polls, the RJD kept him hanging and the BJP offered him all of six seats, forcing Kushwaha to seek yet another partner. He entered the elections as head of the newly-formed Grand Democratic Secular Front, including the RLSP (contesting 100-plus seats), Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, BSP, and two other smaller parties. Pappu Yadav, who wanted to be projected as the CM face, didn’t find a place.

In yet another flip in March 2021, he merged his RLSP with JD(U) and was offered a key position as the party’s parliamentary board chairman and nominated to the Legislative Council. This was seen as a move in line with Kumar’s idea to consolidate the core constituency of OBCs Koeri and Kurmi — known as Luv-Kush in political lexicon.

Courtesy Indian Express