Claiming that the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party has gained significantly in strength in Bihar, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha on Friday demanded that his party be allotted more than three seats in the state by the National Democratic Alliance to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats. Kushwaha's RLSP had contested and won three seats in the 2014 general election.
"My party had contested three Lok Sabha seats in 2014 but now this party's strength and base have increased... Our party should be given more than three seats after making a neutral assessment of its strength," Kushwaha told reporters at his party office in Patna.
Kushwaha, the Union minister of state for human resource development, said there is little doubt the RLSP has gained strength but how much could be a matter of debate.
Replying to a query, Kushwaha admitted that he had raised the demand for more number of seats with BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Bhupendra Yadav.
If need be, he added, he would also speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.
Kushwaha said the seat-sharing issue between NDA partners in Bihar -- Baharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal-United, RLSP and Lok Janshakti Party -- has not been finalised, otherwise it would have been announced.
The BJP had won 22 seats in Bihar in the 2014 election, while Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP had contested seven seats and won six.
On October 26, BJP chief Amit Shah had announced that the BJP and the JD-U would contest an equal number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bihar.
Kushwaha asserted his alliance with the BJP and LJP was intact but expressed displeasure over Chief Minister and JD-U chief Nitish Kumar's statement apparently directed at him.
Kushwaha said Kumar should retract the statement or explain what he actually meant.
On the seat-sharing issue with particular reference to Kushwaha's RLSP, Kumar had told a TV channel on November 3, "Do not take the debate to such a low level."
Kushwaha said he felt the remark was laden with casteist overtones.
"I am extremely hurt and pained by CM Nitish Kumar's statement in which he referred to me as 'neech'. The kind of language Kumar has used for me is intolerable. Nitish Kumar should withdraw his statement," Kushwaha said.
"I am being asked to make sacrifices for the new entrant JD-U to the NDA fold, but RLSP was ignored when the benefits (in terms of ministerial berth in Nitish Cabinet) were to be distributed among the partners," he said. -- PTI