'I hope the honourable PM and Mr Shah take steps to ensure that the NDA doesn't split.'
After the recent by-election losses in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, another member of the National Democratic Alliance has expressed discontent against the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party is demanding 'better co-ordination' among National Democratic Alliance constituents and 'proper representation' within the alliance.
In the aftermath of the NDA losing the Jokihat assembly by-poll in Bihar, the RSLP issued a strongly worded statement, saying, 'It is no secret that discontent has been brewing among some sections of the NDA for quite some time.'
'Mostly, it has been because of the big brotherly attitude shown by the BJP,' the RSLP revealed.
Meanwhile, the Janata Dal-United insisted that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar be made the NDA's face in the state and all upcoming elections -- Lok Sabha and assembly -- be fought under his leadership.
This did not go down well with the RLSP.
Soon after that, Kushwaha skipped an NDA dinner in Patna on June 7. His party cited the minister's preoccupations in New Delhi as a reason for his absence.
"If Mr Nitish Kumar, who represents 1 per cent of his community, can be CM seven times, why can't Upendra Kushwahaji, who has a support base of a community which is more than 8 to 9 per cent of Bihar's population?" Madhaw Anand, RLSP national general secretary and spokesperson, asks Rediff.com's Utkarsh Mishra.
Your party has accused the BJP of a 'big brotherly' attitude, you seek 'better co-ordination' among NDA members. What do you mean by that?
We are a part of the NDA since 2014. (Our party chief) Upendra Kushwahaji is also a Union minister.
The JD-U recently announced -- without consulting other alliance partners -- that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be the 'face of the NDA' in Bihar in the next Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.
When there's an alliance, all members should sit together and decide the election strategy; they decide the face of the election and also who will be the next chief minister.
But here, there was no meeting of NDA constituents. It isn't proper that without any meeting or consensus you stake a claim on the chief minister's post.
So our demand from the BJP is simple: That they should call a 'coordination meeting' of all NDA members from Bihar: Upendra Kushwahaji, Ram Vilas Paswanji, the JD-U and others.
And in that meeting, everything should be discussed; from seat-sharing to the election agenda to a common minimum programme.
And also decide who will be the face of the Lok Sabha elections and who will be the face of Bihar assembly elections.
Without such a meeting, someone making any announcement isn't appropriate.
So we request the BJP that, as an elder member of the alliance, it should immediately call such a meeting of all the allies where everything can be decided and later announcements can be made about who will fight on how many seats, who will be the face of the election and what will be the agenda.
What's the BJP's reaction to your position?
They have to think over it. Today, Upendra Kushwahaji represents the Kushwaha community, which is 8 to 9 per cent of Bihar's population.
It's difficult for any party -- be it the BJP or the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) -- to form a government in Bihar, or get good numbers at the Centre, without the support of the Kushwaha community.
Both the BJP and RJD know they can't ignore the Kushwaha community. Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha is the undisputed leader of this community.
He doesn't only have support of the entire Kushwaha community, but also commands the support and respect from all sections of society, be it the upper castes, the OBCs, the Dalits or Muslims.
He is one of the tallest leaders in Bihar as well as in the country.
He is a professor and thus no one has any doubt about his capable leadership.
You also tweeted that if Mr Kushwaha is made the CM candidate in Bihar, it would lead the NDA to an 'unprecedented victory'.
Why can't it happen?
If Mr Nitish Kumar, who represents 1 per cent of his community, can be CM seven times, why can't Upendra Kushwahaji, who has a support base of a community which is more than 8 to 9 per cent of Bihar's population?
Besides, the way our party has grown in the recent years, everyone knows they can't form a government without his support.
So I can also say that he's the face of the NDA.
Like Nitishji is the tallest leader of the JD-U, Sushil Modiji is the tallest leader of the BJP (in Bihar), Upendra Kushwahaji is the tallest leader of the RLSP.
What's the problem in saying that (he should be the next CM)?
That's what we're asking -- that there should be a meeting of all the NDA constituents where there is a consensus on issues.
Till then it is not fair for the JD-U or anyone else to make any such statements. It is against alliance dharma.
The widespread belief that the BJP's rise to glory is mostly due to the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and party president Amit A Shah could be a reason for its apathy towards its allies.
Despite their popularity, the BJP and NDA lost most of recent by-elections (to a united Opposition): From Gorakhpur, Phulpur, Kairana (all three Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh) to Araria (in Bihar).
When you are in power, you also have to deal with anti-incumbency.
Added to anti-incumbency are the (perils of) not taking your allies along.
You see, every party has a definite, strong, vote base. So if there is no coordination or consensus between ruling allies, the Opposition will keep gaining ground.
I hope the BJP will consolidate the NDA, and keep all alliance partners in the flock and proceed with a common minimum programme in Bihar, UP and all other states.
This way, the NDA will be successful in the 2019 election and Shri Narendra D Modi will again become the prime minister.
It could be the BJP's perception that allies like the RLSP can be ignored.
But we are a party with a mandate and we do not lack options.
However, we want to remain in the NDA and we still believe in Modiji's leadership.
But the BJP also needs to walk an extra mile (to retain that support).
It is said that by-elections are fought on very local issues and a united Opposition will not be able to challenge the prime minister at the national level.
I don't think it is fair to say that by-elections are fought only on local issues.
For that matter, the BJP fell short of a majority in Karnataka. They couldn't form the government. And a person with 36 MLAs is now the chief minister.
So there were also some loopholes in the management and lack of co-ordination.
I firmly believe that Modiji will become the PM again in 2019.
But for that the BJP also should introspect and ensure that it takes along all NDA partners, especially the RLSP.
The JD-U blamed by-poll losses on rising petrol prices. Do you agree?
It's not like petrol prices are rising for the first time. It keeps rising and falling according to the ups and downs in the international market and crude oil price.
It could be one factor, but I will not say that it was the only factor.
You see the margin; the RJD won by more than 50,000 votes. It can't be all due to rising petrol prices.
So the JD-U needs to introspect.
Dismissing the loss as incurred only due to rising petrol prices is not right.
How do you respond to the government's attitude towards the agitation of Dalits and depressed classes? Do you have differences with the government on those issues?
If you are talking about the Supreme Court's order amending the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, then yes we believe the government should bring an ordinance to undo the changes.
There has been a negative impact of the Supreme Court ruling on the Dalit community. They thought that their pride has been hijacked.
Upendra Kushwahaji wrote to the PM requesting him to file a review petition and also bring an ordinance to nullify the ruling.
The government has filed a review petition. However the Supreme Court refused an urgent hearing of the petition and also refused to stay its order.
That also sent a wrong message to the Dalit community.
So we demand an ordinance to nullify the amendments in the Act.
An iftar hosted by the RLSP in Patna, where Mr Kushwaha was present, was not attended by other NDA leaders. Were they not invited?
The iftar was organised by the minority wing of the party and they sent a common invitation to every NDA partner.
Kushwahaji did not invite or call anyone individually.
According to the practice of our party, where every section does its own job, it was all done by the minority wing and a common invitation was sent.
Nityanand Raiji (of the BJP) attended the iftar. The BJP is like an elder brother in our alliance, it was represented by Nityanand Raiji on the occasion.
As for the others, they know better why they did not attend.
Was that a reaction to Mr Kushwaha skipping the NDA meet in Patna?
I have said this earlier and I repeat it that the NDA dinner meeting that was held in Patna's Gyan Bhavan on June 7 was attended by senior officials and members of our party.
As regards the absence of Kushwahaji, he is a Union minister and he had prior engagements in New Delhi due to which he could not come. He had informed Nityanand Raiji in advance that he will not be able to attend the get-together.
All other senior office-bearers of our party attended the event. There was nothing like a 'boycott' of the meeting.
We are with the NDA. And we demand that we are recognised and given proper representation so that we continue to be its part.
Many other BJP allies voice their concern about the party's attitude towards them.
The Telugu Desam Party left the NDA.
The Shiv Sena keeps criticising the BJP on every issue.
Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party is often critical of the UP government in which he is a minister.
Only the JD-U looks to be complacent, saying there is no trouble in the alliance.
In such a scenario, could the JD-U create a gap between the RLSP and the BJP and increase its proximity to the latter?
The JD-U is the reason for fissures in the NDA (in Bihar).
They only announced first, without consulting other partners, that the Lok Sabha and state elections in Bihar will be fought under Nitishji's leadership.
So, somewhere, the JD-U is responsible for these disagreements and conflict within the fold.
They are a big party in Bihar and Nitishji is a tall leader, we all support him.
But they should not have issued such a statement without reaching an understanding with other NDA partners in the state.
Such announcements can be made only when all NDA partners sit to decide and reach an understanding.
The JD-U has been on the back foot ever since. They have realised that they took a wrong step.
They realised they should not have issued such statements without consulting other allies.
Besides, it is a battle for survival for the JD-U. They broke the Mahagathbandan to re-join the NDA. It changed the public opinion about them.
So it is an existential battle for the JD-U, not for us.
We have been and are with the BJP. And we want to remain with the BJP if it gives us proper representation.
But it is different with the JD-U. They were heading the Mahagathbandan. They hurriedly snapped it and came back to the NDA.
The people do not seem to approve of this step. But it is the JD-U's internal matter.
Are you planning to meet Amit Shah with your demands?
Seeing the kind of reports coming in the media, one doesn't think that such a big party as the BJP would be unaware of what's happening.
We hope that the honourable PM and Mr Shah both are reading and following everything.
They should take cognisance of the matter and take steps to ensure that the NDA doesn't split.
We hope they will call a meeting as soon as possible.