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Chief ministerial ambitions probable trigger for Upendra Kushwaha exit

A former protégé of Nitish, Kushwaha had parted ways with him ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and sided with the BJP.

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Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha's exit from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was only a matter of time, felt experts, ever since Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JD-U) returned to the NDA fold in July 2017.

A former protégé of Nitish, Kushwaha had parted ways with him ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and sided with the BJP. "He was very vocal against Nitish after leaving him and was the most uncomfortable one when the JD-U and BJP reunited after the fall of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. That neither of his MLAs were inducted into the NDA's Council of Ministers in Bihar, only added fuel to fire," said an RLSP leader.

Political observers feel Kushwaha's chief ministerial ambitions also forced him to look for other pastures as Nitish will be the undoubted face of the NDA for the next Bihar CM. At a time when Kushwaha wants to expand his party's base, the indication of being offered only two Lok Sabha seats for 2019 (he had contested and won on three in Bihar in 2014) made him realise he will not be able to fulfill his agenda, they said.

The immediate trigger, however, is said to be the joint presser by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and Nitish, where the duo announced that both parties will contest on equal number of seats in Bihar in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, leaving out Kushwaha's RLSP. He set November 30 deadline for the final seat division within the NDA, but when the ultimatum failed to elicit any response from the saffron party, he was left with no option but to quit.

Though Kushwaha has been claiming of having a support base of five per cent Koeri voters, politicians said Nitish, as well as some other leaders also have a hold on that particular section of OBC voters. In the light of the same, Kushwaha alone does not hold the numbers to make any major impact on the electoral politics in the state.

However, the reason why the NDA was "bearing with him for the past several months despite him spewing venom against them is that he may be the missing puzzle piece of the caste-picture formed by the various Grand Alliance constituents in Bihar", a Patna-based senior journalist said.

The scribe added, "Had he been so precious as he claims to be, the NDA would not have let him go or Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would have already accommodated him."

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