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Rift deepens in ‘Mahagathbandhan’, RJD ministers likely to quit Nitish cabinet over JD(U)’s insistence on Tejashwi Yadav’s resignation

Reported by: Prashant Jha Patna 14 Jul 2017, 18:07:01 IST
Prashant Jha

Signalling a big rift in ranks within the ruling Grand Alliance in Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal is learnt to have made up its mind to break ranks with the Nitish Kumar-led government if the Janata Dal (United) persists with its demands for the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, sources told India TV. Tejashwi Yadav, his father and RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav and mother Rabri Devi figured in the CBI FIR in a case related to three acres of land given to the family by a private party in return for licence given for hotels of IRCTC at Ranchi and Puri in 2006 when Lalu Prasad was railway minister.

The RJD, while making its stand clear, is also unwilling to cede ground to the Bharatiya Janata Party and has said it will offer outside support to the JD(U). Senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi reiterated his party's stand on zero tolerance against corruption, but said there was no threat to the Grand Alliance in Bihar.

"The JD(U) is behind CM Nitish Kumar's statement (on allegations against Tejashwi Yadav') like a rock. There is no question of compromise on the issue of propriety. The dignity and conduct of a leader is paramount to us. Nitish Kumar can bear the pressure posed by nature, but not one that is man-made," he said, adding that he hoped the Grand Alliance would continue to function in the state.   

The JD(U) has kept the heat on its larger partner on coming clean on the allegations of corruption against it topmost leaders. However, relations appeared to reach a flash point when the JD(U) stressed on Tejashwi putting facts before public within four days, just stopping short of seeking his resignation. The JD(U) has 71 seats in the 243-strong Bihar Assembly, nine seats lesser than its alliance partner RJD which has 80 seats. The Congress party, which is the third alliance partner, managed 27 seats in the Assmebly elections in the state in 2015. The BJP-led NDA has 58 seats in the Assembly. 

The BJP, which has 53 seats in the Assembly, has been demanding the resignation of Tejashwi following the FIR and even questioned the integrity of Chief Minster Nitish Kumar over his stated stand of maintaining zero tolerance against corruption. Earlier this week, Nitish Kumar had chaired a crucial meeting of JD(U) MLAs, office bearers and district chiefs. Putting the ball in the court of RJD, the party in a terse message to Lalu asked his son to ‘defend accusations in public with facts’.

Party spokesperson Niraj Kumar said earlier today that the RJD chief should also make all his assets public in view of the allegations against him by the CBI and the opposition. This follows his remark on Thursday when he said that Tejashwi should put facts before public in view of the prevailing sentiment. “The FIR by CBI was filed on the basis of facts and proof. Everything is in the public domain. But doubt prevails over the reply that has come (from RJD). Understand the sentiments, not the words… Ishaara samajhiye (recognise the signal). Present the proof with facts. If you are unable to place the facts, tell us…,” he had said.

The RJD, on the other hand, has ruled out resignation of Tejashwi, inviting sharp criticism from the BJP which has dared Nitish to sack Lalu’s younger son from his Cabinet.

Tejashwi, who attended a Cabinet meeting chaired by Nitish Kumar two days ago, termed the corruption charges levelled against him as a conspiracy hatched by the BJP government. “FIR against me is a political vendetta. It's a conspiracy by Amit Shah and PM Modi. From day one they have tried to break our alliance,” Tejashwi told media after the meeting.