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A leader never at peace with himself

When BJP fought against the Nitish combination in the 2014 elections, Upendra Kushwaha was the perfect antithesis of the Bihar strongman, claiming clout in the same constituency that Nitish Kumar always boasted of monopoly.

That Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP will have an uneasy relationship with NDA became clear the moment chief minister Nitish Kumar rocked his Mahagathbandhan and walked over to the opposition BJP to re-define the contours of Bihar politics. In fact, when BJP fought against the Nitish combination in the 2014 elections, Kushwaha was the perfect antithesis of the Bihar strongman, claiming clout in the same constituency that Nitish Kumar always boasted of monopoly. But with no love lost between Narendra Modi and Nitish, who had walked out on the saffron party over the former being named to head the BJP power bid, Kushwaha had a role in the Prime Minister’s game plan for Bihar.

But over time, the wily Nitish, who could make and break alliances with the ease of changing a shirt, completely outfoxed Kushwaha, who has since been left in the lurch and is smarting under insult after insult at the hands of both JD(U) and BJP leaders. After blowing hot and cold over his future in the NDA, Nitish Kumar had finally stuck a hard bargain with BJP president Amit Shah, getting the saffron party to agree on a most unlikely seat sharing formula of equal number of seats for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Paradoxically, the Nitish Kumar party contesting the 2014 elections under different permutation-combinations had won only two seats while Kushwaha’s fledgling party contested three and won all. So, when BJP settled for an equal number of seats with Nitish’s new JD(U) as the NDA partner, it meant that Kushwaha would get only fewer than the seats won by his party for the 2019 polls. That in both letter and spirit meant Kushwaha’s complete surrender before Nitish.

Kushwaha has since been making loud noises about his future in the NDA alliance, but was given the short shrift by the BJP leadership, despite a number of deadlines set by the RLSP leader. When the final deadline of November 30 had passed, it did without even a whimper and it was clear that Kushwaha was to be on his own. And with limited options, the Bihar backward class leader has been building bridges with RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and the effort seems to have borne fruit. Although technically he is still in NDA and is a minister in the Modi government, for all practical purposes Kushwaha’s tryst with the saffron outfit is over. He has now threatened to battle NDA in Bihar.

But unfortunately for him, the vintage Kushwaha of 2014 is now passe and gone with the wind; not only he may not be able to repeat the magic, but may find all his magical powers clipped. As a matter of fact, he has been blamed for apportioning too much credit for himself for the Modi wave then and entertaining fancy thoughts.

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