SENDING A clear political signal to its ally RJD, the JD(U) said Tuesday that it remained committed to the ruling coalition in Bihar but added that its stand on “crime and corruption is well known” and it has “set an example by asking ministers facing cases to resign in the past”. The party was reacting to calls for RJD leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav to resign after the CBI named him in an FIR on charges of corruption and cheating. The RJD, however, responded by insisting that Tejashwi would not resign on the “basis of a case foisted by CBI out of political vendetta”.
During a meeting in Patna of its legislators and workers, sources said, the JD(U) did not explicitly demand the resignation of Tejashwi but party chief and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar invoked several examples to stress his commitment towards probity and accountability in governance.
Addressing the meeting, sources said, Nitish recounted his resignation from the A B Vajpayee government on moral grounds after the Gaisal train accident of 1999. He also recalled the resignations by BJP leader L K Advani and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav during the Hawala scandal of the 1990s.
Nitish further cited the resignations of ministers during his previous tenures to stress on his “zero tolerance against corruption”, said sources, adding that his “fond invocation of Vajpayee and Advani did not come as a surprise” to many party cadre. Aware of their party chief’s position, sources said, leaders at the meeting insisted on maintaining the Chief Minister’s “clean image”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sanjay Jha, JD(U) national general secretary, who attended the meeting, said, “Brand Bihar has been created with great effort by Nitish Kumar and JD(U). We will not let that get diluted at any cost. Party legislators and workers were unanimous that Nitish Kumar’s clean image and developmental governance are the main assets of the party, and that we will not compromise on these whatever be the cost. We are ready to bear any consequence for our policy of zero tolerance against corruption.”
Sources said the party’s leadership has decided to give some time to its alliance partner to come clean over the charges using facts and not rhetoric. Former JD(U) minister Ramai Ram claimed that the party had given four days’ time for the RJD to take action on Tejashwi. Asked what the JD(U) would do if Tejashwi does not resign, sources said, “Then, our leader will take a call.”
Speaking to reporters after in Patna, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said, “One who is facing a CBI case should present facts in his defence to the people and before the media. It is the RJD that has to take a decision on Tejashwi. As for us, everyone knows we have set an example by obtaining the resignation of our leaders, whether it was the matter of Jitan Ram Manjhi in 2005, and Ramanand Singh and three other ministers later.”
Asked why Nitish has not sought the resignation of Tejashwi yet, the spokesperson said that his party has always adhered to “coalition dharma” and expected its alliance partner to take the call on this issue.
“Nitish Kumar has been very clear on this and expects the RJD to decide on Tejashwi. Had it been a matter of our minister, we would have taken a decision by now,” said sources.
“We felt there was no need to show unnecessary aggression towards RJD, which needs breathing space to take a crucial decision. We expect Tejashwi’s resignation to be a matter of time. It should not be an ego issue. After all, Tejashwi’s departments can stay with any other RJD minister, such as Tej Pratap Yadav or Abdul Bari Siddiqui, or anyone Lalu Prasad (RJD chief) wants,” said sources.
The RJD, however, appeared defiant and resorted to rhetoric to reject calls for Tejashwi’s resignation. “RJD legislators have decided unanimously that Tejashwi would not resign. His performance as a minister has been extraordinary and we look up to him as our leader,” said RJD Minister Shivchandra Ram.
RJD national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh sought to know on whose directions had the CBI filed the case against Tejashwi, and his parents Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi.
“Normally, a state government recommends this. But there was no such recommendation in this case. The tender for railway hotels (for which the CBI registered the FIR) was done in 2006 when Tejashwi was a minor,” said Singh.
The BJP, meanwhile, continued to highlight Nitish’s “zero tolerance against corruption”. “We expect the RJD to listen to Nitish. As for Congress lending support to RJD, it has always supported Lalu Prasad despite him being a convict in a corruption case,” said BJP legislature party leader and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi.