BJP ally Upendra Kushwaha resigns from Modi’s cabinet; will attend opposition meet

New Delhi: Union minister Upendra Kushwaha called it quits from the Narendra Modi cabinet after a long-time disagreement with the BJP over seat-sharing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“Nearly five years ago I joined the National Democratic Alliance, under your leadership, with tremendous hope and expectations. During the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 you made several commitments to the people of Bihar and to the nation at large. It was in this context that I had extended my unconditional support to the BJP,” the minister of state wrote in his resignation letter.

His sharpest public expression of revolt against the NDA came in a strongly-worded statement by the RLSP expressing concern over what it believed were objectionable and unnecessary decisions taken by the BJP and the central government. “We are not opposed to construction of mosques and temples. But this is not the function of political parties and their meddling in such matters causes tensions in the society and diverts the attention of the public from real issues,” said the party’s resolution.

On the growing chorus for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya by BJP’s leaders and allies, RLSP’s resolution said it “gives rise to the suspicion that the largest party in the coalition ruling the Centre, and some of its leaders, are deliberately trying to make the people forget about poverty, illiteracy and unemployment and get swayed by emotive issues. The party strongly condemns this attitude”.

The Rashtriya Lok Shakti Party (RLSP) chief is also expected to walk out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday even as the BJP holds a meeting with other alliance partners.

Kushwaha had been sulking ever since the BJP and the JD(U) reached an agreement that the two parties would contest 17 seats each in Bihar, where the total number of constituencies is 40.

As per the tentative arrangement, the RLSP was to be given two seats, one less than the number it had fought on and won in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Kushwaha had himself won from Karakat. The party’s third MP Arun Kumar from Jehanabad had been suspended from the RLSP two years ago.

“Kushwaha is likely to announce his parting of ways with the BJP today. He will also quit as a Union minister,” PTI quoted a senior RLSP leader as saying.

The first signs of a rift between Kushwaha and BJP emerged after party chief Amit Shah, in a joint press conference with JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, in October announced that both parties would contest an equal number of seats in 2019 elections and smaller allies would have to take a cut in their share to accommodate the new partner.

Hours after the announcement, Kushwaha created a stir with his “unscheduled meet” with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav at Arwal in Bihar. Earlier too, he had hinted that all was not well within the ruling coalition with his “kheer” remark. “One can prepare kheer with milk from the Yadavs and rice from the Kushwahas,” he had said.

Speculations are rife that the RLSP may join hands with the Opposition in Bihar, which includes Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress. Sharad Yadav’s newly formed Loktantrik Janshakti Party is also expected to join the purported alliance.

Kushwaha to attend ‘anti-BJP’ meet

Kushwaha is also expected to join a big opposition meet to discuss a common strategy to fight the BJP next year. Kushwaha had been flirting with the opposition for some time and met with Congress president Rahul Gandhi this morning before sending his resignation to PM Modi.