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Mahagathbandhan rumbling in Bihar: Smaller allies unhappy with RJD

India Today logo India Today 14-02-2020 Amitabh Srivastava

When Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha on Thursday proposed veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav's name as the face of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar ahead of the assembly polls due later this year, it was seen merely as a trial balloon and a pressure tactic on big brother RJD, which of late has stopped giving much importance to its smaller allies.

Tejashwi Yadav et al. posing for the camera

On Friday, however, when RJD refused to acknowledge RLSP Chief's comment, the three smaller allies of the RJD - Upendra Kushwaha of RLSP, Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM (Secular) and Mukesh Sahni of VIP party held a closed-door meeting in Patna with Sharad Yadav.

While the four leaders refused to share details of their discussion, sources divulge that Sharad Yadav will soon meet Lalu Prasad in Ranchi to convey their collective displeasure at being ignored by the RJD.

While proposing any other name for grand alliance leadership is non-negotiable for the RJD, which is adamant on projecting Tejashwi Yadav as the Chief Ministerial candidate, the other grand alliance partners, including Congress, do not appear keen on any such pre-poll projection.

Incidentally, the RJD leads the grand alliance in Bihar, which has Congress, RLSP, HAM Secular and VIP as partners. Of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar that these alliance partners had contested last year, only the Congress could win one seat while the remaining four, including the RJD, had drawn a blank.

A top Congress leader, however, admits that while all alliance partners may ultimately yield leadership position to the RJD in the run-up to the assembly polls, they are wary of Tejashwi Yadav's approach of not consulting others.

A gap has emerged the grand alliance partners, as the Tejashwi Yadavled RJD is believed to have become a bit disillusioned by their tall claims and little delivery whereas the smaller parties are increasingly getting restive at RJD's ways of not involving them much in any forward planning.

As Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal attempting to expand its social base by offering 45 per cent reservations to scheduled castes and tribes and the extremely backward caste (EBC) in the party organisation, the smaller partners of the Bihar grand alliance are clearly alarmed.

The challenge for Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM (Secular) and Mukesh Sahni's VIP party is to stay relevant not only for the electorates but also for the RJD.

In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while the RJD expected Kushwaha votes from RLSP, Mallah votes from VIP Party and Dalit votes from HAM (S), the three smaller parties also depended on RJD for its large chunk of votes. As RJD --and these three smaller parties too-- failed to win a single seat in the Lok Sabha polls, Tejashwi Yadav appears to have switched to a new strategy, which banks on a 'Do It Yourself' technique.

RJD sources admit that Leader of Opposition and the de-facto party boss Tejashwi Yadav has decided to attract other social groups to RJD's electoral base. "The way forward was to empower new leaders from other social groups, especially the EBC voters. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, we made a mistake and depended on to untested leaders like Mukesh Sahni, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha to deliver us votes from other social groups. When they failed, we failed too. Now, in the run-up to the assembly polls, the RJD wants to expand its own social base, instead of depending on others," the RJD leader said.

Last week, when the RJD rearranged party organisation, it picked 14 extremely backward caste leaders, seven scheduled caste leaders and one scheduled tribe leader to lead its district units in Bihar. With 14 EBCs presidents of the district units against 12 Yadavs, for the first time since its formation, the RJD now has more EBCs heading its district units than Yadavs.

Also watch: JD(U) put up hoardings with catchphrases on Nitish, RJD replies (Video by Hindustan Times)

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