Rashtriya Loktantrik Samata Party (RLSP) Upendra joined the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on Thursday after severing ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and resigning as a union minister.
Kushwaha was expected to join the UPA, but few had anticipated the leaders of Bihar’s grand alliance would make the announcement at the Congress party’s headquarters in Delhi. Those who welcomed Kushwaha to the UPA fold included such guiding lights of ‘anti-Congressism’ as Loktantrik Janata Dal president Sharad Yadav. Others present on the dais were Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, along with Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel and party’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil.
However, the presence of Sharad Yadav, and to an extent of Tejashwi Yadav as well, addressing a press conference at the Congress headquarters seemed to officially end the over 50-years of ‘anti-Congressism’ among socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia’s followers.
The press conference also marked the rebirth of the UPA. The UPA was formed in 2004 and ruled at the Centre for 10-years. All non-Congress leaders at the press conference suggested that they were now officially part of the UPA. Tejashwi Yadav said his father, RJD chief Lalu Prasad had called for a grand alliance over three years back, which is now materializing. “We need to sacrifice our respective egos and work to protect the Constitution,” the 29-year-old leader said.
After quitting the Janata Dal (United), Sharad Yadav’s new party has had alliances with the Congress in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. He has also organised conferences on the need to protect India’s composite culture, which the top Congress leadership had attended. However, these were held at neutral venues. Sources said Patel played a key role in convincing Tejashwi Yadav and Sharad Yadav to hold the press conference at the Congress headquarter to show the solidity of Bihar’s grand alliance and mark the re-emergence of the UPA. Last week, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M K Stalin said Congress president Rahul Gandhi could be the next prime minister.
The leaders said they would discuss the issue of sharing of seats in the weeks to come. Kushwaha’s party had contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar. It had won three seats then. These parties would be keen to contest seats in Bihar, which has 40, and 14-seats of Jharkhand.
Kushwaha thanked Congress president Rahul Gandhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s “generosity” in welcoming him to the UPA at a time when he felt insulted in the BJP-led NDA. Kushwaha criticised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of conspiring with the BJP to destroy his political career.
However, on the possibility of Kumar-led JD (U) severing its alliance with the BJP and returning to the ‘grand alliance, Gohil said it was a hypothetical question. On Congress party’s Bihar Lok Sabha MP Ranjeet Ranjan stating that Kumar was welcome to join the ‘grand alliance, Gohil said it was her personal view.
Significantly, none of the leaders said the doors of the UPA were shut for Kumar or Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan. Gohil said the constituents would take any future decisions on this by consensus. On Chirag Paswan expressing displeasure at the BJP’s treatment of his party, Tejashwi Yadav said the political climate of the country was changing, a dig at Paswan senior's reputation of a keen predictor of political weather.
The RJD leader said Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to deliver upon his promises made to Bihar. Manjhi congratulated the Congress chief for farm loan waivers. Tejashwi Yadav also said all of BJP's allies were upset with its dictatorship. He said BJP's allies like Peoples' Democratic Party, Telugu Desam Party and others have deserted the NDA, and others, like the Shiv Sena, were upset.
The UPA in Bihar now has one too many contenders for the state’s 40-Lok Sabha seats. Apart from RJD and Congress, Manjhi’s HAM, Sharad Yadav’s LJD and now Kushwaha’s RLSP, the alliance would also need to accommodate the Left parties, as well as disgruntled BJP Lok Sabha members Kirti Azad and Shatrughan Sinha.