This is being read as Nitish Kumar’s strategy to cement his own position further and destroy the two powerful Yadav siblings’ future shot at power within the coalition government. The RJD will be now left with the option to promote Tej Pratap, Lalu’s elder son, as a likely candidate for the Deputy CM’s post. But Tej Pratap has been, despite a berth in Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet, only a second fiddle to both Tejashwi and Misa, whom Lalu is said to have groomed as his political heirs.
“Sonia Gandhi called Nitish Kumar on Wednesday and then again on Friday to save the Grand Alliance from collapsing. Nitish Kumar has sent out the message to her that he would not accept either Tejashwi or Misa as the Deputy Chief Minister, although he has assured her that he will not take any hasty decisions or break the Grand Alliance,” a source told this reporter.
The source added that the Congress president, who is determined not to let the Grand Alliance collapse and Nitish’s JDU join hands with old ally BJP again, has asked the Bihar CM to meet her in New Delhi. “She has asked Nitish Kumar to meet her and sort out the differences. She has asked him to also meet Lalu Yadav,” the source added.
Both Tejashwi and Misa are facing serious charges of corruption. The CBI is probing Tejashwi in the land-for-hotels case. It is alleged that Tejashwi was granted the ownership of three acres of land at a prime location in Patna in 2004 from a private party, who were given the licence to run two IRCTC hotels in Ranchi and Puri by his father Lalu Yadav, the then Railway Minister. Misa Bharti is under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the dealings of her company Mishail Packers and Printers Ltd for alleged money laundering.
As these cases hit the headlines, CM Nitish Kumar publicly stated that corruption was not tolerable for him. In the following days, the Janata Dal United raised the pitch for Tejashwi’s removal as Deputy CM. Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, however, remained adamant that he would not quit, creating a major rift between the alliance partners. Many political pundits are of the opinion that Nitish Kumar is exploiting the case to settle scores with Lalu, since tension has been long simmering between the two leaders, with Lalu trying to upstage him and install his son Tejashwi as the CM. In the 2015 Assembly elections, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United had secured 71 seats, nine short of RJD’s in an Assembly of 243. Despite its numerical inferiority, the JDU has the option of staying in power by going back to the BJP, which can help it secure a majority with its 53 MLAs.
On Nitish Kumar’s insistence that Tejashwi should come clean on the charges of corruption, the latter held a press conference on 7 July, dismissing the accusations against him as “vendetta politics” on part of the BJP. But the JDU’s state president for Bihar, Vashisht Narain Singh maintained his party was not satisfied with what Tejashwi said in his defence.
According to various media reports, the JDU has given the RJD a 72-hour deadline to ensure Tejashwi’s exit, which would end on Sunday, 16 July. These reports could not be independently verified by The Sunday Guardian.
Although the RJD officially maintains Tejashwi will not quit, sources said that Sonia Gandhi has asked Lalu Yadav to soften his stand. Sources said that modalities were being worked out in the RJD camp for Tejashwi’s exit, but the biggest challenge before them was who would replace him, as Nitish Kumar has also vetoed Misa’s name.