Spurned by the National Democratic Alliance and disowned by the Rashtriya Janata Dal-helmed Grand Alliance, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha on Tuesday announced another front ahead of the assembly polls in Bihar, comprising Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and a non-descript Janatantrik Party-Socialist.
Addressing a press conference in Patna, the former Union minister said that the yet to be named front will contest all 243 assembly segments in the state with the promise of "abki baar shiksha waali sarkaar (this time a government for education)" which would usher in an era of growth and employment generation in the state.
Kushwaha termed the 15-year rule of Nitish Kumar and the preceding decade and a half when Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi ruled the state as "two facets of the same coin", neither of which did anything substantial to eradicate corruption and bring about improvements in health and education.
He defended his decision of joining hands with the RJD less than two years ago.
The RLSP chief who recently burnt his bridges with Lalu Prasad's party by opening a front against his son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, said, "I had joined the Grand Alliance to help form an alternative government at the Centre. I was not helping the RJD form a new government in Bihar".
On September 24, when he was "authorized" by the party to decide its future course, it was an indication that the RLSP's exit from the Grand Alliance was a mere formality.
Kushwaha had then said that he would continue in the Grand Alliance only if the coalition agreed upon a chief ministerial face other than Tejashwi Yadav who, according to him, was "no match to Nitish Kumar".
Asked whether he was isolated on the issue within the coalition, Kushwaha said, "Not at all. Just look at the Congress, the second largest constituent. It is still sceptical on the question of Tejashwi. Moreover, only recently
Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the coalition and walked over to the NDA because of differences he had on this very issue."
Kushwaha evaded questions about talks he reportedly had with leaders of the NDA in Patna and New Delhi.
"The Grand Alliance was unable to take a decision on leadership in time. Filing of nominations will begin from October 1. And we had to make a move for the betterment of Bihar," he said.
Kushwaha said that his front now has the RLSP, the BSP, and the Janatantrik Party-Socialist, a party based in Uttar Pradesh where it has a marginal presence.
The RLSP chief claimed that many more parties have evinced interest in joining his newly-formed front but he was tight-lipped when asked whether he would welcome Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party, which seems to be on a collision course with the Janata Dal United-Bharatiya Janata Party combine.
Kushwaha, who had served as the minister of state for human resource development under Prime Minister Narendra Modi till December 2017, said, "It appears the BJP is calling the shots everywhere. It controls the Nitish Kumar government and even the RJD seems to be playing into its hands."
He also dismissed as "speculations by the media" reports that he was insistent on contesting the by-poll to Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat where voting is scheduled to take place on November 7.
Sources in the party also said that Valmiki Nagar was "never on the agenda" since chief minister Nitish Kumar had decided to field from the seat a close family member of Baidyanath Mahto, the JD-U MP whose death necessitated the by-election.
They also said that neither Kumar nor the BJP was averse to the RLSP's return to the NDA, "but uncertainty over the prospects of the LJP" and the saffron party's insistence that it join the coalition "unconditionally, without pressing for a guaranteed number of seats in elections", threw a spanner.
Kushwaha also sought to make light of the exit of state unit chief Bhudev Chaudhary, whose crossing over to the RJD on the previous day came as a rude shock to the RLSP.
"I have let loose my boat in the ocean with the intent to reach the other shore. The faint-hearted are welcome to alight whenever they want", he said, attempting a poetic flourish.
While the assembly elections are being seen as largely a contest between the NDA and the Grand Alliance, the state has been witness to mushrooming of "morchas" (fronts) which may queer the pitch for the lead players in a tight contest.
On Monday, Jan Adhikar Party founder Pappu Yada announced a tie up with the Bhim Army of Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan.
A week ago, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi had announced the formation of a front in which he was joined by Devendra Prasad Yadav, a veteran socialist leader who has formed his own party.