New Delhi: Ahead of Bihar Assembly polls scheduled later this year, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha has sounded a note of caution for ally BJP, which has been buoyed by successive victories in state elections after its triumph in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
"There is a need to be a little cautious. Had JD(U) and RJD been separate, it would have been easier for NDA to win the elections. Since they are together, we need to be a little more cautious and need to strategise properly," the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief told PTI.
His concern is borne out by the result of Assembly bypolls held on 10 seats in Bihar in August last year in which NDA won only four seats, while the JD(U)-RJD and Congress combine bagged the remaining six.
That result for NDA had come just about three months after the Lok Sabha elections in which the Narendra Modi juggernaut had virtually decimated the Opposition with BJP winning 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
The coming together of JD(U), RJD and Congress makes the alliance a rainbow coalition of the Yadavs, Dalits, most backward classes (MBCs), Kurmis and Muslims, which numerically could pose a serious challenge to NDA, believes a section among the BJP-led alliance.
Kushwaha, the Lok Sabha MP from Karakat and the Union Minister of State for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation, is an influential leader of the Kushwaha (koiri) community, who had aligned with NDA after parting ways with Nitish Kumar's JD(U) in Bihar.
Riding the Modi wave in the Lok Sabha polls, his party won all the three parliamentary seats in which it contested.
Although Kushwaha was dismissive of the coming together of splinter groups of Janata Parivar on the national level, he believes Lalu Prasad's RJD and Kumar's JD-(U) will be allied in the state, as they face a "rout" otherwise.
Kushwaha said JD-U and RJD have no other option but to join hands and insisted that Bihar is looking forward to a change.
In his around 30-year political career, Kushwaha has been with parties like Lok Dal, Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United), which he represented in Parliament as a Rajya Sabha MP before he fell out with Kumar.
Political equations have kept changing fast after every elections in Bihar. BJP, RJD, JD(U) or the earlier Samata Party had fared differently in elections as part of different combinations.
Ram Vilas Paswan, who was earlier the main claimant of Dalit votes, stands marginalised somewhat with the Mahadalit pitch raised by former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the last few years.
Both Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party and Kushwaha's RLSP are Bihar-based parties and, hence, in the coming days, hard bargaining is expected for seats as the BJP talks to its allies in Bihar, where the polity has for long been divided along caste lines with each community having a leader or two of its own.
BJP has set an ambitious target of winning 185 seats in the state, which has a 243-member Assembly.
Kushwaha said that ills like corruption and dynasty on which the Janata Party and Janata Dal used to attack Congress now "plague" the splinter groups themselves and there is a "vast difference" between what the Janata family used to be and what it is today.
"Janata Parivar had come to power at the Centre at a different time after raising such issues. Now, corruption is a problem in most of the states in which the offshoots of Janata Parivar ruled. Dynastic politics is also there, like in Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party is ruling," he said.
"For the development of any state, there should be a meeting of minds between the central and the state governments.
"People of Bihar have voted for Modi at the Centre, whose government is committed to development. Now they want to benefit from this opportunity and would like to bring NDA in the state as well so that development plans are carried out unhindered," Kushwaha said.