PATNA:The fortune of the alliance between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav in Bihar is likely to be decided today as both leaders hold separate meetings with their legislators on the same agenda: whether Lalu Yadav’s son, Tejashwi, should quit as Deputy Chief Minister because of corruption charges.
Nitish Kumar, who is Chief Minister, has suggested that’s essential. As with many other fronts, Lalu Yadav is not on the same page.
On Friday, the Bihar Assembly starts its new session. Nitish Kumar, indebted in part to his “Sushasan Babu” (Governance Sir) image for his three consecutive terms, is reluctant to allow the opposition the opportunity to accuse him of being permissive of corruption. He has spoken recently of a “zero-tolerance policy” on graft and declared the defense offered by Lalu and Tejashwi Yadav as considerably short of the mark.
The Yadavs say the case, which names both of them, is the misuse of power by the central government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is using investigative agencies like the CBI to hound opponents.
Both sides are likely to reiterate their positions at today’s sessions with their parties’ law-makers. As important as the meetings that are being held is the one that isn’t: a standard joint address to legislators of the alliance that is held before every assembly session has not been scheduled, setting off the equivalent of a five-five alarm.
Since the case erupted on July 7 with raids at the Yadav home in Patna, Nitish Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal (United), have made no utterances of support. The Congress, which is the third member of the Bihar alliance, initially backed Lalu Yadav, but has lately quietened down, reportedly because Nitish Kumar has made it clear that he cannot be talked out of demanding his 28-year-old deputy’s resignation.
The Congress’ top bosses, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, have talked to both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. Congress sources said that Sonia Gandhi has made it clear that it is son Rahul who has been assigned to handle the problem. Over the weekend, he met in Delhi with Nitish Kumar who reminded him that in 2013, when Lalu Yadav was found guilty of corruption in a different case, it was Mr Gandhi who dramatically tore up an executive order or ordinance that was designed to protect Lalu Yadav from a Supreme Court order that bans convicted politicians from holding public office.
Sources said Nitish Kumar also referenced the many corruption scandals that played out during the term of the previous Congress-led government. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not involved in the scams, critics say he allowed allies in the national government to help themselves freely to the cookie jar. From telecom to coal, the Supreme Court has found huge conspiracies in gypping the country of valuable resources.
If the alliance in Bihar ends, it will puncture the hype that the opposition is trying to build around an 18-party front that hopes to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from winning a second term in 2019. The league has been fashioned on the Bihar alliance which saw former rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav quitting their differences in 2015 and co-signing with the Congress to ensure that their collective support groups -a range of castes – became the wall that PM Modi ran into as he led the BJP’s campaign in Bihar.