'I have to take a stand to strengthen it. I cannot sit silent.'
Till December 2022, former Union minister and senior Janata Dal-United leader Upendra Kushwaha used to loudly defend Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Kushwaha, 63, an old associate of Nitish Kumar, 71, since the days of the Samata Party in the mid-1990s, now misses no opportunity to embarrass the JD-U supremo.
There is a buzz in political circles that Kushwaha may leave the JD-U and join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar ahead of the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha polls followed by state assembly polls in 2025.
Upset over being sidelined in the JD-U after he merged his Rashtriya Lok Samta Party in 2021, Kushwaha has been raising issues daily and daring Nitish Kumar to explain.
This has not gone down well with the chief minister who asked him to leave the JD-U as he did thrice in the past.
Kushwaha, a nominated JD-U MLC, belongs to the powerful OBC Koeri caste, the largest social group after the Yadavs in Bihar's caste-ridden political terrain.
In his political career of over three decades, Kushwaha, a college teacher turned politician, has won elections twice and has been defeated about seven times.
He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and the Bihar legislative council by Nitish Kumar, who also helped him to become leader of the Opposition once.
"As far as the post of the JD-U parliamentary board chairman given to me and nominated as an MLC, both proved powerless. I had already termed it a jhunjhuna, merely a lollipop," Kushwaha tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor M I Khan in the concluding segment of a two-part interview:
- Part 1 of the interview: 'Why is Nitish promoting Tejashwi as next CM?'
Why have you called a JD-U workers meeting on February 19-20 in Patna?
I have been saying for days that the party is weakening and there is a need to strengthen it.
I had written an open letter to party workers and invited them for a discussion over issues like the special deal with the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal).
At least party workers will get a platform to say what they want to about the party.
Last month I had demanded the party top brass to convene a meeting of the national executive to discuss a special deal with the RJD, but my demand was ignored.
Several JD-U leaders like Lalan Singh and state JD-U President Umesh Kushwaha say you have been speaking on behalf of the BJP. Nitish Kumar stated you are speaking on behalf of someone when you demanded your share in the party.
They knew nothing. Both should ask Nitish Kumar why he challenged Lalu Prasad Yadav in 1994 during his first stint as CM and demanded his share.
If that was right, how is my demand of a share wrong?
Nitish Kumar had demanded his share from Lalu at the famous political rally of Luv-Kush in Patna then.
What is the reality of newspaper reports that you are upset with Nitish Kumar for not being given a big role in the party or government and for not promoting you on par with Tejashwi Yadav.
There is no such thing. But a leader close to Nitish Kumar did everything to play politics within the party to sidelined me.
I can recall that Nitish Kumar has promised me when he invited me to merge my party with the JD-U that after him his party (the JD-U) will be led by me.
But Nitish Kumar has given you important positions, nominated you to the Rajya Sabha in the past and as a member of the Bihar Legislative Council last year.
I always stand with Nitish Kumar, respect him and accept his leadership.
But this time it is a matter of the party, which is weakening and I have to take a stand to strengthen it. I cannot sit silent.
As far as the post of the JD-U parliamentary board chairman was given to me and nominated as an MLC, both proved powerless.
I had already termed it a jhunjhuna, merely a lollipop.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com