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BJP Ally Upendra Kushwaha Quits As Minister, Will Attend Opposition Meet

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By Manish Kumar And Deepshikha Ghosh, NDTV

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bihar ally Upendra Kushwaha quit as union minister today in a move that had been anticipated for months because of his growing resentment over seat sharing for the 2019 general election.

Mr Kushwaha announced the decision after meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi this morning. Mr Kushwaha was the Minister of State for Human Resource Development at the centre. He is expected to join a big opposition meet to discuss a common strategy to fight the BJP next year.

"Nearly five years ago I joined the National Democratic Alliance, under your leadership, with tremendous hope and expectations. During the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 you made several commitments to the people of Bihar and to the nation at large. It was in this context that I had extended my unconditional support to the BJP," Mr Kushwaha said in his resignation letter.

The chief of the RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party) leaves the NDA minus his two state lawmakers or one parliamentarian Arun Kumar, who had floated his own party earlier. But his exit triggers political realignment in Bihar, which has 40 seats, just before the national election.

Upendra Kushwaha has been feeling short-changed since the BJP struck a seat-sharing deal with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The message for Mr Kushwaha was that he would not be given more than two seats to contest in the Lok Sabha election. Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

The RLSP is expected to join hands with the opposition, which includes Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress.

Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar's arch rival who quit his Janata Dal United last year, is believed to be ready to merge his party with Mr Kushwaha's, so together they can have a better share of seats in an opposition alliance.

Mr Kushwaha has made no bones about his disenchantment with the BJP.

In a strongly-worded statement at a party meet last week, the RLSP expressed concern over what it believed were objectionable and unnecessary decisions taken by the BJP and the central government.

"We are not opposed to theconstruction of mosques and temples. But this is not the function of political parties and their meddling in such matters causes tensions in the society and diverts the attention of the public from real issues," said the party's resolution.

On the growing chorus for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya by BJP's leaders and allies, RLSP's resolution said it "gives rise to the suspicion that the largest party in the coalition ruling the Centre, and some of its leaders, are deliberately trying to make the people forget about poverty, illiteracy and unemployment and get swayed by emotive issues.

The party strongly condemns this attitude".

The resolution also criticised the Nitish Kumar government in the strongest terms.

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