As Abdul Bari Siddiqui reached Lalu Prasad’s 10 Circular Road home Monday, “bringing back” six MLAs who had supposedly split the RJD, a party leader whispered, “The man who did it all has gone into damage control now.”
Siddiqui is the RJD legislature party leader. Very few in the party are convinced by his pledge of loyalty to Lalu or his insistence that he was ignorant of what looked like a JD(U) effort to engineer a split in the RJD. As it was, the 13 MLAs supposed to have switched sides would have been two short of the two-thirds required for them to be recognised as a breakaway group. Besides, nine of them are back, including the six Siddiqui took to Lalu.
Siddiqui dismisses the widespread belief that he was behind the rebellion. “I have been facing this allegation for a long time. Let no one doubt my loyalty to Lalu,” he says.
Siddiqui has frequently been accused of being soft on the ruling JD(U), which has been looking for a clear, single majority ever since it split from the BJP. Propped by the support of four Congress MLAs and as many independents, the JD(U) is said to have sent Sidiqqui its first feelers last July. The bonhomie between the ruling party and Sidiqqui showed in the assembly during last year’s monsoon session, when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told him pleasantly, “What are you doing on that side? Please come over this side.” The tone was playful but many saw this as an open invitation.
By October, when Lalu was convicted in the fodder scam, the JD(U) was optimistic the RJD would split of its own. It was with this anticipation that the JD(U) did not go for a cabinet expansion. Word was in the air, something Sidiqqui himself concedes, that he was being offered the deputy CM’s post if he could lead a breakaway flock with the 15 MLAs necessary.
RJD insiders say such efforts picked up again in the beginning of this month. The RJD’s Samrat Choudhary took the lead role in breaking away. Choudhary, MLA from Parbatta and the RJD’s chief whip, is among the four who haven’t returned to the party. When the budget session began February 14, he submitted to the speaker an application “duly signed” by 13 MLAs, not including Siddiqui. Party insiders say they have no doubt he was acting at the behest of Siddiqui.
As Siddiqui rose to speak on the governor’s speech, a BJP MLA needled Water Resources Minister Bijay Kumar Choudhary, known as the number two in the government. The MLA told Bijay Choudhary, loud enough for Siddiqui to hear, that he would soon lose his position to Siddiqui. And the latter retorted, “You people have continued…