Nitish caught between Lalu and A hard place

Nitish caught between Lalu and A hard place

By ABHINANDAN MISHRA | New Delhi | 22 July, 2017
Grand Alliance, Bihar, JDU, Tejashwi Yadav, RJD, Neeraj Kumar, President Pranab Mukherjee
If mid-term elections happen, the RJD will get sympathy votes from Muslims and Yadavs.
The Grand Alliance in Bihar is on the verge of breaking up, with JDU leaders stating on record that there is no question of compromising on issues of corruption that have come up against Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, senior JDU leader Neeraj Kumar, who is also an MLC , said that there was no question of the party compromising  on corruption. “Whatever I am saying is reflecting what my party is thinking. From the first day, we have stated and proved by our actions that we are not going to tolerate corruption; that was one reason behind the mandate we got in the election. The FIR against Tejashwi Yadav is a personal FIR which is based on evidence, done by the CBI, not by Bihar police.  They need to come clean on it for the sake of public perception, but the RJD is dodging it.”

On the question of the JDU taking the support of BJP, if offered, in case the RJD pulls out, Kumar said that the “party will follow the coalition dharma till its last breath, but it was not willing to compromise on the issue of corruption”.

RJD leaders, on the other hand, have made it clear that they are open to “going to the public” if the situation demands. The decision of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who arrived in Delhi on Saturday to attend a dinner given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, is being seen as another of his deft political manoeuvres to explore the friends he has in Delhi. Nitish Kumar also met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who has been personally monitoring the deteriorating  relationship in the state. The Congress has 27 MLAs, all of whom have come out in vocal support of RJD leaders, rather than supporting Nitish Kumar’s idea of removing allegedly tainted politicians from his Cabinet.

JDU party sources said that the CM did not want to endanger the ruling Grand Alliance of JDU, RJD and Congress, but he was also totally against the continuance of Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, facing a CBI probe for alleged corruption, in the Cabinet. However, with the RJD making it clear that Tejashwi Yadav will not resign, Nitish Kumar is slowly finding himself being pushed to the corner.  On Saturday, a poster attacking JDU spokespersons, who are considered close to Nitish Kumar and have been vocal against Tejashwi Yadav, came up in Patna alleging that the spokespersons were  acting on the behalf of BJP.

“If the RJD decides to take back its support, which is a very strong possibility if Tejashwi Yadav is removed from the Cabinet, we will need the support of the BJP to keep the government running. None of our MLAs will prefer having a mid-term poll, as many of the government schemes are yet to be fully executed in a way that they can show results. We definitely are against having a mid-term election,” a senior JDU source said.

On its part, the BJP has maintained a studied silence and state party leaders have been directed not to attack Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar shares excellent personal relations with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and also with senior Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi, who has been at the forefront of attacking Lalu Prasad Yadav and his children. What has stopped Nitish Kumar from removing Tejashwi Yadav from the Cabinet, according to party sources, is the fear that a rebellion might occur in the JDU as most of the 71 party MLAs are not confident whether they will be able to win again. “If mid-term elections happen, the RJD will get sympathy votes from the Muslim-Yadav community as Lalu Prasad Yadav, being the politician he is, will turn this whole incident into an attack on the Yadav and Muslim communities (nearly 17% of the population) by Nitish Kumar. We do not have any caste power to fall back on. Nitish Kumar’s USP is his claim to governance, not his caste-based support,” a JDU MLA said.

Patna-based political observers said that Nitish Kumar would never compromise with his “clean image”. “He is very conscious about it and will go to any lengths to make sure that his image is not dented, even if that means not staying in power. Right now, a section within the RJD feels that if mid-term polls happen, it will be they who win more seats than JDU-BJP as Tejashwi’s removal from the Cabinet will amount to challenging the Yadavs and the Muslims, who for long have backed Lalu Yadav,” a Patna-based journalist said.

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