THE RULING Grand Alliance in Bihar is headed for a turbulent week, with the JD(U) calling for a meeting of its legislators on Tuesday and party sources indicating that they would call upon RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav to resign as Deputy Chief Minister after the CBI registered an FIR against him on corruption charges.
JD(U) sources told The Indian Express that it would be an “ideal situation if Tejashwi himself offers to step down” during a meeting of RJD legislators scheduled on Monday.
The move follows the registration of an FIR by the CBI on corruption charges against Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and Tejashwi for allegedly accepting a prime plot of land in Patna in exchange for awarding a tender for the maintenance of two railway hotels to two Bihar businessmen when the RJD chief was railway minister in 2006.
JD(U) chief and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is yet to comment publicly on the CBI action, which was described by Prasad as a part of the BJP’s “political vendetta” against his family.
On Thursday, a day before the CBI conducted raids on properties linked to Prasad, as part of its investigation in the case, Nitish left for Rajgir in Nalanda for “health reasons”. On Sunday, he was back in Patna but officials said the Chief Minister has cancelled his weekly interaction public programme scheduled for Monday.
RJD leaders, however, remained defiant and said there was no need for Tejashwi to resign.
Senior party leader and former Union minister Raghunath Jha said, “Did BJP’s Union Minister Uma Bharati resign after a case was registered against her?” Hilsa MLA Shakti Singh Yadav said, “RJD mein chattani ekta hai (Our unity is rock solid).”
Party sources, however, said there were suggestions that senior minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui be made the RJD’s legislature party leader and Deputy CM. But, they said, there was little chance that RJD chief Lalu Prasad would accept “anyone from outside his family for these key positions”.
Prasad’s elder son and Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav may be in contention for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post if Tejashwi agrees to resign, said sources. “But this looks a little far-fetched, as of now. At best, the departments held by Tejashwi can go to Tej Pratap and any other senior RJD minister,” said RJD sources.
JD(U) sources said Nitish had been in touch only with the party’s Rajya Sabha MP R C P Singh during his day stay in Rajgir. “From what we have gathered so far, Nitish would expect Tejashwi to offer his resignation before being asked to do so. If Tejashwi resigns on his own, he may earn the Chief Minister’s respect and can take the high moral ground on corruption. This will also blunt the BJP’s attack on the JD(U) leadership and allow some breathing space for the Grand Alliance,” said a JD(U) leader.
Sources confirmed that Nitish has not yet spoken to Prasad on the issue. “Nitish Kumar would expect Lalu Prasad to make the first move. If the RJD remains defiant on Tejashwi not resigning, matters may worsen, which is something the JD(U) and RJD want to avoid. The idea is to not give the BJP an upper hand,” said another JD(U) leader.
JD(U) sources also pointed out that under the reign of Nitish Kumar, five ministers had to either resign or were sacked in the last 12 years over corruption charges and political allegations.
The JD(U) had originally scheduled its Tuesday meeting for district presidents and party spokespersons, but later invited all MLAs and MLCs, too, to hear their views on the current political situation.
Reacting to the latest developments, BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said his party would adopt a “wait-and-watch policy for now”. “We appeal to RJD MLAs to put pressure on Tejashwi to resign and make someone like AB Siddiqui Deputy CM in his place,” he said.