PATNA: Union minister and chief of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party Upendra Kushwaha today created a flutter by saying that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should voluntarily "give up the bid" for a fourth term in office in 2020.
In an interview to a news channel here, Kushwaha said Kumar had served as chief minister for close to 15 years and the time had come for him to consider "giving somebody else a chance".
"It has been close to 15 years since Nitish Kumar was first blessed with the mandate to govern Bihar. It is a pretty long period for a leader to prove his mettle. I think he should now himself give up the bid for another term", Kushwaha said.
The RLSP chief was replying to a query about the likelihood of Kumar facing a tough time in the next state polls due to anti-incumbency.
Kushwaha, the Union minister of state for the HRD, said "I have known Kumar for long and as far as I have understood his personality, he would himself not run for another term".
"He (Kumar) could aim at a bigger political role for himself", he added cryptically. Kushwaha's comment comes in the backdrop of a number of leaders from his party expressing the view that he would be a better chief ministerial candidate for the NDA in Bihar than Kumar.
A former close associate of Kumar, Kushwaha had floated his own party after resigning from JD(U) in 2013. He allied with the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll when Kumar was out of the NDA and his RLSP won three seats.
Although RLSP has two MLAs, none of its members got a ministerial berth after Kumar formed a government with the BJP last year after walking out of the Grand Alliance which comprised RJD and Congress, besides JD(U).
The ruling NDA in Bihar now comprises the JD(U), the BJP, Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP and the RLSP.
The RLSP leaders have been pointing out that Kushwaha belongs to the Koeri caste, which is a much larger social group than the Kurmi community represented by Kumar.
Kushwaha had skipped the dinner meet hosted by BJP i Patna last month to celebrate the completion of four years in power by the Narendra Modi government. The other NDA allies were present at the meet.
The meeting happened to be the first such function held after the return of Kumar, who is also the JD(U) national president, to the BJP-led coalition a year earlier.
Meanwhile, RLSP national secretary and spokesman Madhaw Anand issued a press statement urging the chief minister to recommend a CBI inquiry into the alleged sexual exploitation of girls at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur district.
In his statement, Anand alleged that the Muzaffarpur scandal could turn out to be "larger than Nithari" if it was properly investigated.
He cited the statement of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who had said in Parliament yesterday that the Centre would consider a CBI inquiry if a request to this effect was made by the state government.