File photo of Tejashwi Yadav. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The opposition RJD in Bihar on Friday sought to fish in troubled waters, scoffing at the BJP for agreeing to treat the JD(U) as its equal in terms of seat-sharing while "neglecting trusted allies" like Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha in order to woo an "undependable" Nitish Kumar.
RJD heir-apparent Tejashwi Yadav made the statement hours after BJP national president Amit Shah, in a press conference in New Delhi, said that his party and the JD(U) will be assigned "an equal number" of seats and the remaining two allies will be "duly represented".
"The BJP had won 22 out of 40 seats in Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Its willingness to treat Kumar as an equal partner, whose JD(U) had won only two seats and lost its deposit in most, shows the desperation on part of Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the leader of the opposition in the state assembly told reporters here.
"Moreover, the meeting between Shah and Kumar gives the impression that the BJP has made up its mind to go with the JD(U) chief, who is undependable having cheated both them (BJP) and us (RJD), and given a short shrift to Paswan and Kushwaha, who have been firmly with the NDA," the former deputy Bihar Chief Minister said.
About his meeting with Kushwaha who heads the RLSP earlier in the day at Arwal district, Yadav said, "People are free to draw their own conclusions. I can only say that the meeting was not pre-planned. It was a coincidence that he and I were at the Circuit House at the same time and hence it was natural for us to exchange pleasantries."
Pressed further, he said, "It is probably the first time that I have met Kushwaha in person. As far as prospects of his joining our Mahagathbandhan is concerned, we had invited him to do so long ago and the invitation stands. It is for him to accept it or ignore it."
Speculations have been rife, for quite some time that Kushwaha might gravitate towards the Grand Alliance which at present comprises the RJD, the Congress and former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha.
The speculations have gained ground since RJD national vice president and state unit chief Shivanand Tiwary and Ram Chandra Purve respectively turned up at a "human chain" organised by the RLSP and got photographed holding Kushwaha's hands even as leaders of the BJP and the JD(U) remained conspicuous by their absence.
A couple of months ago Kushwaha, despite having repeatedly said that he will remain with the NDA, said that he looked forward to preparing a "kheer" -- cooked with the help of rice grown traditionally by members of his caste and milk, produced by Yadavs -- which was seen as an indication of his willingness to form an alliance with the RJD.
Yadav, on his part, has been claiming that Kushwaha will leave the NDA and join the Grand Alliance following in the footsteps of Manjhi, who had quit the BJP-led coalition in February this year.
Like Manjhi, Kushwaha is a former JD(U) leader, who had formed his own party after falling out with Nitish Kumar and joined the NDA while the Bihar Chief Minister was out of the BJP-led coalition.
Kumar's return to the NDA last year was understood to have caused a lot of consternation among the likes of Kushwaha and Manjhi.