Differences have surfaced within the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) over withdrawing support from the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, with as many as 37 MLAs threatening to defect to the Janata Dal (United) in that case.

The JDU, on the other hand, wants Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav—against whom the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has lodged an FIR along with his father Lalu Prasad Yadav in a corruption case—to resign on his own, as the party does not want to dilute the Chief Minister’s “Mr Clean” image.

Sources said these RJD MLAs have conveyed to party president Lalu Prasad Yadav that it would not be a good idea to pull out of the government and that they may be forced to take the extreme step of defecting to JDU in case the RJD withdraws from the government.

What is troubling Lalu Prasad Yadav is the fact that most of the party MLAs are not in favour of promoting Tej Pratap Yadav to Deputy Chief Minister, in case Tejashwi Yadav is compelled to resign.

What has complicated things for Lalu Prasad Yadav is that more benami properties that allegedly belong to Lalu and his family members, including nine plots and six flats spread across Patna and neighbouring areas, have come under the scanner of the investigative agencies and allegedly belong to other immediate family members of Lalu Prasad Yadav. This has restricted options for the RJD leadership that has been mulling the option of replacing Tejashwi with someone from the immediate family members, including people who are not active in politics. “A senior RJD Cabinet minister, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, is strongly opposed to Tej Pratap’s promotion, though Lalu wants him to replace Tejashwi in case he is forced to resign. It is very strange that Siddiqui has not made any statement ever since the political turmoil started in Bihar following crackdown against Tejashwi and Misa Bharti,” a party source said.

The continuity of Tejashwi Yadav in the Cabinet has become untenable ,with the JDU clearly stating that the party will not compromise on the “clean image” of Nitish Kumar, who has been the Chief Minister for long without facing a single dent against his name.

Top JDU sources who spoke to The Sunday Guardian said that the option of Tejashwi Yadav staying in the Cabinet was not available. “We have not asked for the resignation of Tejashwi, have we? But the fact remains that the RJD should keep in mind the image of Nitish Kumar, whose clean image and probity are not questioned by even his strongest critics, despite Kumar having such a long political life. The rest is up to the RJD leadership. We want the Grand Alliance to continue, there is no doubt about that. People should also understand that whenever the CM decides, he can easily remove him (Tejashwi Yadav) from the Cabinet; that is his lawful prerogative,” the leader said.

JDU sources say that the way out for the RJD was to ask Tejashwi Yadav to resign and move ahead rather than making it an ego and prestige issue.

However, according to RJD leaders, the JDU is worried that Tejashwi Yadav, sooner rather than later, will stake a claim for the the CM’s chair, which according to them, was on the anvil ever since the Grand Alliance came into power. “Yeh sab usi ke karan hua hai (Everything is happening because of this). The JDU leaders are worried that Tejashwi will, rightly so, because we are the largest party, stake a claim to the post of the CM and that is why the JDU sees this whole development as an appropriate time to cut him and the RJD to size,” an RJD functionary, who is considered close to Lalu Yadav, said.

Incidentally, in August last year, The Sunday Guardian had done a story “RJD wants Lalu’s son as CM, Nitish rattled”, in which Bhagalpur RJD MP Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal  had recommended that Tejashwi Yadav should be made the Chief Minister of Bihar by next year (2017).

In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, RJD has 80 MLAs, JDU has 71, Congress has 27, whereas the rest of the non-NDA parties and independents have seven MLAs (CPI-ML, three; Independent-4).

According to RJD leaders, if Lalu Prasad Yadav decides to, he will not have much difficulty in getting 122 MLAs to support his son as CM.

“If we add the Congress, CPI-ML and Independents to our tally, we will have 114 MLAs. How difficult do you think will it be for Laluji to get 8 MLAs from other parties to reach the magic figure of 122?” a senior RJD party leader told The Sunday Guardian.

The RJD is of the view that JDU MLAs belonging to the Yadav and Muslim community will easily support the RJD as Lalu Prasad Yadav has given the whole issue the colour of an “attack on the Yadavs”.


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