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Amid Upendra Kushwaha-Sharad Yadav merger talks, RLSP chief may meet Rahul Gandhi

Amid Upendra Kushwaha-Sharad Yadav merger talks, RLSP chief may meet Rahul Gandhi
Upendra Kushwaha (left) Sharad Yadav

Amid talks of discussions between RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha and former Union minister Sharad Yadav to merge their parties, Kushwaha is likely to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday, it is learnt.

The meeting, if it takes place, will come a day ahead of the Congress-led UPA’s scheduled meeting. Bihar Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD and former Bihar chief minister and Hindustanti Awam Morcha (Secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi are among leaders scheduled to attend the UPA meet.

Sharad Yadav, who has been discussing merger of his newly floated Loktantrik Janta Dal (LJD) with Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), is also likely to meet RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Ranchi on Saturday to discuss the strategy for next year’s Lok Sabha elections, according to sources in his party.

Kushwaha, a minister of state in the Narendra Modi government, has put the decision on RLSP’s split with the BJP-led NDA on hold for now.

Sources in Sharad Yadav’s LJD and the RLSP confirmed to The Indian Express that Kushwaha and Sharad Yadav had been discussing merger for some time now in their bid to build a bigger political unit and get the maximum possible number of seats to contest in Bihar from the RJD.

A source in RLSP said, “If Kushwaha and Sharad Yadav can come together, they will become a good unit and can demand at least eight or nine (Lok Sabha) seats from the RJD — we have good candidates for these many seats. The only thing that is holding the LJD’s merger with RLSP is Kushwaha’s dilemma to concede the national president’s position in the merged party to Sharad Yadav. Most RLSP leaders are in favour of Kushwaha keeping the position, and giving Sharad Yadav a very important role in the merged unit.”

But before the merger talks progress, sources said, Kushwaha and Sharad Yadav will meet Rahul Gandhi to seal the seat-sharing deal with the RJD. “We want the Congress to come together with us to finalise the seat-share talks,” a senior RLSP leader said. “Once there is clarity on the number of seats, Kushwaha can go ahead with announcing his split from the NDA before or after the Assembly poll results (to the five states on December 11).”

A source in the LJD said: “There should be a merger. Our unit may be little known but we have a national face in Sharad Yadav. We are ready to accept the RLSP symbol but want Sharad-ji at chief of the merged party. We can project Kushwaha as the merged unit’s Bihar face and probable chief minister candidate.”

The source added that even if the merger does not fructify, the LJD, RLSP, Congress, CPI and CPI-ML will make a formidable combination with the RJD in Bihar.

An RJD leader said the party will take a call on seat-sharing for next year’s elections soon.
“We do not want Kushwaha in our fold. All of us will sit together to work it out,” a leader close to Lalu Prasad said.

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