Amid a tense standoff between alliance partners JD(U) and RJD, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav on Saturday skipped a state government function where he was to share the dais with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The CM had been invited as chief guest at the function organised by the Bihar Skill Development Mission and Tejashwi was to be “special guest”.
While Labour Resources Minister Vijay Prakash, an RJD leader, presided over the function to celebrate the first anniversary of ‘Kushal Yuva Karyakram’, there was visible awkwardness among the organisers over Tejashwi’s absence.
First, Tejashwi’s nameplate was covered with a piece of cloth and later, the nameplate was removed. The seating order was then changed and Water Resources Minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh of the JD(U) was given a seat next to theCM.
Later, in his speech, the CM made no mention of Lalu and delivered a completely apolitical speech on the “hardworking” people of Bihar and how “they are almost indispensable”.
Tejashwi’s absence at the function comes a day after Lalu rejected the possibility of his son putting in his papers over FIRs lodged against them, besides Rabri Devi and others, on allegations of corruption.
On his return from Ranchi late Friday night after appearing in courts in connection with the fodder scam cases, Lalu had said that Tejashwi would not resign and claimed that the case against him was “politically motivated”. Later, after a meeting with RJD legislators, Lalu said, “Tejashwi Yadav istifa nahi denge. FIR darj hone se koi istifa nahi deta hai (Tejashwi Yadav will not resign. No one resigns because of an FIR).”
“RJD ki or se gatbandhan mein koi aaanch nahi aayega (There will not any problem to the alliance from the RJD),” he said.
Earlier in the day, the JD(U) had issued a statement, saying RJD legislators should “stop boasting about its 80 MLAs” and Lalu should come clean on the source of his family’s assets.
On Saturday, senior JD(U) leader Shyam Rajak, once a close confidant of Lalu, said, “Laluji bujurgiyat me anap shanap bol rahe hain… Janta agar sar par chadhati hai to utaar bhi deti hai (Lalu Prasad is speaking nonsense because of his senility. If people can bring you to power, they can also pull you down).”
The RJD and the Congress have called a joint meeting of their MLAs on Sunday to discuss the presidential poll strategy, while the JD(U) has convened a separate meeting of its MLAs at the CM’s residence to discuss the same issue. However, there is speculation that the JD(U) meeting could also discuss Tejashwi.
A JD(U) source said any decision on the alliance would now be taken only after the presidential poll on Monday. “There are two options: the CM can either sack Tejashwi from the Cabinet or himself offer to resign. If Tejashwi is told to go, there is the possibility of an RJD backlash, with all their ministers offering to resign. We do not want to get into such a situation and want the onus on saving the alliance to be on Laluji,” said a source close to the CM.