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BJP may bring in Kushwaha as OBC face

Kushwaha has an extensive support base among Koeri voters in Bihar.

NAVTAN KUMAR  New Delhi | 6th Jul 2013

Upendra Kushwaha

he Bharatiya Janata Party is planning to bring former Janata Dal (United) leader Upendra Kushwaha of Bihar to its fold and project him as the party's OBC face.

Kushwaha, who quit the JD(U) earlier this year following differences with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, is a Koeri, an Other Backward Class. Koeris constitute around 8% of Bihar's population. The BJP hopes that Kushwaha's entry into the BJP will make a dent in Nitish Kumar's OBC votes, post the break-up with JD(U). Kushwaha has an extensive support base among his caste men.

A senior BJP leader and Lok Sabha member from Bihar said that the party will project Kushwaha, along with Narendra Modi, as the BJP's OBC faces in the next Lok Sabha elections, although Modi has never identified himself as an OBC. The projection of these two OBC leaders, the BJP hopes, will eat into Nitish Kumar's OBC vote bank.

Kushwaha quit his Rajya Sabha membership as well the JD(U)'s primary membership in January this year. A month later, he floated a new party called the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP). He accused Nitish Kumar of being "autocratic", who had made JD(U) his "pocket organisation". The former Samata Party MLA was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly. Kushwaha admitted to this newspaper that he has been approached by the BJP and that he would decide on the matter only after consultations with his party colleagues. "We are going to hold a state level convention on 18-20 July, in which we will decide our future course of action." "The people of Bihar want to get rid of Nitish Kumar. His government's 'reverse counting' has started. JD(U)'s decision to break ties with the BJP has given strength to those who want Nitish out of power. We will discuss how we can have alliances with other parties," Kushwaha said. In the last Assembly elections, the BJP got 16% votes, while the RJD 18%. The JD(U) got the maximum, 23% votes. The BJP thinks that if it gets the support of the Kushwahas, its vote share will go up considerably.

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