Speculation over the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s immediate loyalties – weeks before a general election – continued Monday evening, with party boss Jayant Chaudhary neither confirming, nor denying, reports he has ditched Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Mr Chaudhary’s party – which last week celebrated the centre’s posthumous Bharat Ratna for his grandfather and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh – said he “took this decision after speaking to all MLAs and party workers”, and that he had limited time to make the “decision”.
“… there was no big planning behind this decision. We had to take (it) within a short time because of the situation. We want to do something good for the people,” he told reporters.
#WATCH |Delhi: On joining NDA, RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary says, “…I took this decision after speaking to all the MLAs and workers of my party. There was no big planning behind this decision, we had to take this decision within a short time because of the situation. We want to… pic.twitter.com/oCokYUX8gA
— ANI (@ANI) February 12, 2024
The RLD leader’s cryptic comments come days after his “Dil jeet liya (Hearts have been won)” response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a Bharat Ratna for Charan Singh.
READ | “Dil Jeet Liya”: RLD Leader As PM Awards Bharat Ratna To Charan Singh
“What previous governments could not do was today completed by PM Modi’s vision. I would like to express my gratitude to PM Modi’s government for encouraging people who aren’t part of the mainstream. It is a big day… and an emotional moment for me,” he said after news of the award.
Asked if this meant he will now ally with the BJP, he said, “Koi kasar rehti hai? Aaj main kis muh se inkaar karoon aapke sawalon ko“, or, “Is there anything left? How can do I deny… today?’
READ | “How Can I Deny”: RLD Leader On BJP Deal After Big Bharat Ratna News
Questions over how the relationship between Mr Chaudhary and Mr Yadav soured have been played down so far; the RLD leader would only call it an “internal matter” and said, “Whatever discussions took place between Akhileshji and me… I will not discuss it outside. When our alliance (seen as referring to the tie-up with the BJP) is announced, I will tell you why I changed my mind.”
On remarks he would not “flip like a coin”, he invoked an “expiry date”.
Last week sources told NDTV a RLD-BJP deal was all but done.
READ | BJP Approaches INDIA’s Rashtriya Lok Dal With 7-Seat Offer: Sources
The party – which has substantial support among Jats and farmers in western Uttar Pradesh – will reportedly contest two Lok Sabha seats (possibly Baghpat and Bijnor) and be nominated for another in the Rajya Sabha. NDTV was also told of the party’s demand – a Bharat Ratna for Charan Singh.
There was also talk of seats in both UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet and at the centre, under Prime Minister Modi, but the status of these demands is still unclear.
The western region of UP has 29 of the state’s 80 seats, seven of which are reserved for the RLD as part of last month’s deal with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, and which has so far refused to acknowledge rumours of Jayant Chaudhary’s switch.
READ | Samajwadi Party, RLD Form Alliance Ahead Of Lok Sabha Polls
Mr Yadav then refused to comment on the RLD’s possible breakaway, “There have been no talks. Whatever it is, (it) is being published in newspapers… am getting information through you.” The day before he called Mr Chaudhary a “very well-educated person… (one who) understands politics”.
If the RLD does cross to the BJP – a most likely scenario – it underscores the saffron party’s determination to throw its political dragnet far and wide before the election, with the focus on regional parties to shore up its strength in key states.
The party has already snatched up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United), and is expected to add one of either Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress or its rivals, the Telugu Desam.
NDTV is now available on WhatsApp channels. Click on the link to get all the latest updates from NDTV on your chat.