Patna: JD(U)'s rebellious parliamentary board president Upendra Kushwaha on Friday demanded that the truth be known about a "deal" allegedly struck by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with ally RJD and demanded an urgent party meeting to clear the air.
Addressing a press conference at his official residence here, Kushwaha, who is also a member of the legislative council, also made it clear that he will not quit the JD(U) "just because" Kumar, the supreme leader, asks him to do so.
"The chief minister has been saying that I have quit the party thrice and come back out of my own wish. I must correct him. I have parted ways and returned only twice. My first comeback was in 2009 when Kumar requested me to return at a public function. My return in 2021, again, followed helpless pleadings of Kumar who had become very vulnerable by the time", said the former Union minister who merged his RLSP with the JD(U) two years ago.
Kushwaha also made little secret of the anguish he felt over the limelight on Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav whom he did not mention by name but referred to as "half the Chief Minister's age, whom Kumar now wants to promote".
The JD(U) leader also sought to remind Kumar of personal insults by Yadav on the floor of the assembly when the latter was the leader of the opposition.
Kushwaha, whose statements before the media and on social media have been frowned upon by the chief minister, defended himself saying "I am ready to raise my concerns on a party platform as desired by Kumar, provided I am provided with one".
"For long I have been demanding that a meeting be convened of the national executive. We have issues to discuss. The party is growing weak. Grapevine has it that some sort of a deal has been struck with the RJD. These must be discussed on party forum", he said.
The allusion was to speculations that the longest serving CM of Bihar has agreed to pass over the mantle to Yadav at some point of time in future, devoting his own time and energy to national politics.
"The other option before me was to speak to the CM directly. Of what avail would that be? I met him in the third week of December to flag the weakening of the party. He snubbed me by asking whether I was thinking of joining hands with the BJP", alleged Kushwaha.
Responding to Kumar's repeated refrain that Kushwaha was "free to go wherever he pleases, as early as possible" the JD(U) parliamentary board president said "I have been with this organization since its previous avatar, the Samata Party. I will not leave just because I am being told to do so".
He also said that while he was being derided by the CM as someone who has "come and gone" many times, "the party is full of turncoats, including the national president (Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan)".
"It appears the CM is not able to distinguish between apne (his own people) and paraaye (whose loyalties were elsewhere). Unfortunately, such people have become his advisers. And it seems he is being guided by such people, not able to exercise his own judgement", alleged Kushwaha.
He also bristled at "communications being received from the party that I do not take part in a function to be held by a non-political organization on February 2. Nobody had any problems with the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap which was attended by all top leaders, including the CM himself, I don't say that was wrong. But why different standards are being applied to me".
Meanwhile, in an interesting development, expelled JD(U) leader Ajay Alok, walked down to Kushwaha's house after the press conference was over and said he was in support of the parliamentary board chief's decision not to quit the party and accused the chief minister of suffering from "mati bhram" (loss of sound judgement).
"When the party's tally was reduced to less than 45 in 2020, Kushwaha was wooed as it was felt that his community had deserted the party. Now he appears dispensable and is being asked to leave. Is it a political party or private property", fumed Alok, perceived to be a sympathizer of the BJP and disgraced former national president RCP Singh.