PATNA: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) on Thursday made it clear that it sought to contest assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh where it would prefer to have a truck with BJP though if that did not materialise, it would not shy away from going it alone.
The party’s parliamentary board chief Upendra Kushwaha made an averment to this effect in response to questions from journalists about the JD(U)’s plans in UP where assembly polls are due early next year.
“Undoubtedly we are going to fight there. Of course, we would prefer to do so in alliance with the BJP. Though if that does not materialise, we may choose to go it alone,” Kushwaha said.
The BJP, which is a partner in the ruling coalition in Bihar, heads the government in the neighbouring state where it won a landslide victory five years ago.
Home to 80 Lok Sabha seats, UP has been witness to stupendous performances by the BJP in 2014 and 2019 and the saffron party, under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath, needs to register yet another emphatic win next year to build the tempo ahead of the all-important general elections in 2024.
The JD(U), although a BJP partner in Bihar and nationally, has charted a different course in other states.
It had fought against the saffron party in the latter’s strongholds like Gujarat, without making much impact.
It achieved some success in Arunachal Pradesh, becoming the main opposition party though the BJP, which came to power, recently weaned away many JD(U) MLAs leaving the party weak in the northeastern state.
In UP, the JD(U) has experimented with many alliances, including one with Apna Dal, then headed by its founder Sone Lal Patel whose daughter Anupriya now leads one of its factions and is a minister in the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Kushwaha was also asked about the JD(U)’s prospects in by-polls to two assembly seats in Bihar due next month.
“We face no challenge. Both Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur were our seats and fell vacant upon sad demise of the incumbents. Our victory is certain. We are only trying to ensure that the margin is big,” asserted Kushwaha who returned to the JD(U) earlier this year, merging the RLSP that he had floated in 2013 after parting ways.
Kushwaha, who had served as a Union minister while he was heading the RLSP, was also asked about the state’s poor ranking in the Niti Aayog report on sustainable development goals, which have come as an embarrassment in the face of Nitish Kumar government’s claims of good governance besides bringing fresh spotlight on the need for special incentives to the state.
“Indeed, Bihar needs special assistance. The Centre must grant that. It may give it whatever name it likes to give to the help,” said Kushwaha referring to the JD(U)’s persistent demands for special category status which the Union government has been turning down on technical grounds.
“As far as low ranking is concerned, do not go much by that. Rankings are based on statistics. Having seen the functioning of governments at close quarters, I can assure you that figures rarely do justice to the picture on the ground,” he added.