All eyes are on a meeting of JD(U) leaders in Patna on Tuesday, after legislators of its ruling ally RJD rallied behind their leader and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, who has been facing calls to resign after he was named by the CBI in an FIR on charges of corruption and cheating. The JD(U), under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has not officially called upon Tejashwi to quit but party sources told The Indian Express that the leadership is “likely to take up the matter in the internal forum”.
Nitish has not publicly commented on the FIR, which also names Tejashwi’s father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad and mother Rabri Devi, but the RJD received support from JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and its other ruling ally Congress, which said it would not “allow BJP to succeed in breaking the Grand Alliance”.
On Monday, following a party meeting, RJD legislators expressed solidarity with Tejashwi “in this moment of crisis” and said that their leadership did not even discuss the possibility of his resignation.
In the last 12 years, Nitish has either sacked or got five of his ministers, who have faced corruption charges and serious political allegations, to submit their resignations.
However, senior RJD leaders who have interacted with Lalu Prasad since the CBI conducted raids on properties linked to him Friday, sought to derive comfort from a telephone conversation that Nitish had with the RJD chief on Sunday night.
“People were asking us whether Congress leaders have spoken to Lalu, whether Mulayam has spoken to Lalu, whether Mamata has spoken to Lalu, but not Nitish. Now, Nitish has also spoken to Lalu. This should end speculation,” said a close aide of Prasad.
“The question of Tejashwi resigning will arise only if if he is denied bail and has to face jail,” said another senior RJD leader.
The RJD also drew strength from former JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who blamed the BJP for the current crisis.
“The BJP is not able to digest its defeat at the hands of the grand alliance (in the Bihar assembly elections of 2015). It has also become desperate due to the strong Opposition unity that is shaping up at the national level. So, all this is to break Opposition unity. If you look around, Opposition leaders are being targeted and action being taken against them,” Yadav told The Indian Express.
In Patna, RJD minister Munishwar Choudhary said after the party meeting that there was “no question” of Tejashwi resigning and that Nitish was “free to take his decision”. Senior RJD leader and state Finance Minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui said the party would not be intimidated by the “BJP’s politics of vendetta”.
Bihar Congress chief and state Education Minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary said all three alliance partners were united.
RJD sources said Monday’s meeting had been called to “express solidarity with the leadership of Lalu Prasad, Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav” and “not to address any unwarranted questions such as the need for the Deputy CM to resign”.
In a two-page resolution, the party spoke about its “chattani ekta (rock-solid unity)” following CBI and ED raids on properties linked to Prasad’s family members.
“That is not just an attack on our leadership but an attack on our existence and we are committed to remain united in this hour,” the resolution said.
Following the meeting, RJD national vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh took a dig at alliance partner JD(U). “When it comes to attacking me, JD(U) spokespersons have been good at launching tirades. But they have not yet said a word after the CBI and ED raids at places of our leader’s family,” said Singh, who has been a vocal critic of the Chief Minister.
JD(U) sources said Nitish would make the party’s stand clear on Tuesday.
“No party leader has said anything for or against Tejashwi. Whether Tejashwi should resign or not can be discussed only at the top level of the Grand Alliance leadership. There would be clarity on our stand by Tuesday,” said sources.
The BJP, meanwhile, continued to highlight Nitish’s tough stand on corruption, while demanding Tejashwi’s resignation.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said, “Knowing Nitish Kumar so well all these years, we know his stand on matters of corruption allegations. He had once said that he cannot allow a tainted minister in his cabinet. He has set an example in the past and now faces a litmus test between exercising his moral authority and succumbing to the constraints of an alliance.”