Your move, Nitish: Image or power?

When he did not turn up, his name plate was covered with paper and quietly removed before the program commenced.

Published: 15th July 2017 10:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2017 10:26 PM   |  A+A-

Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar (File | PTI)

Express News Service

PATNA: With Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav categorically rejecting demands for his younger son and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav’s resignation, an embattled chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday convened a crucial meeting of Janata Dal (U) legislators on Sunday to decide his next step.

The crisis within the alliance government in Bihar deepened further as Tejashwi, 28, skipped an official function in Patna where he was scheduled to share the dais with Nitish Kumar Saturday. Tejashwi’s name had been printed as a “distinguished guest” on promotional pamphlets for the program on Vishwa Yuva Kaushal Divas.

When he did not turn up, his name plate was covered with paper and quietly removed before the program commenced. Rashtriya Janata Dal sources said Tejashwi, against whom the CBI registered a case of corruption last week, stayed home all day and met party leaders and supporters.

Lalu Prasad’s rigid stance that Tejashwi would not quit “under any circumstances” because “an FIR is not a sufficient reason for resignation” led to a fresh bout of finger-pointing among leaders of the JD(U) and RJD. Nitish Kumar, though he continued to maintain studied silence on the issue, was reportedly anguished over the RJD’s attitude even as JD(U)’s unofficial four-day ultimatum to Tejaswi to resign expired Saturday.

“It is time Lalu read the writing on the wall. Nitish Kumar is not going to compromise on the issue of corruption,” said JD(U)’s chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh.

RJD leaders rubbished such protestations and continued citing RJD’s numerical edge in the Assembly. “Our leader (Lalu) has spoken the final word on this issue. There is no chance of any change,” said senior RJD legislator Bhai Birendra, considered close to Lalu.

JD(U) national general secretary K C Tyagi, however, said neither Nitish Kumar nor the party had issued any deadline to Tejashwi to resign. “There is no danger to the grand alliance government,” said Tyagi, hinting that ongoing efforts by Congress to find a “middle path” on the Tejashwi issue may succeed in a day or two.

Although the meeting of JD(U) legislators has been convened ostensibly to discuss the presidential election, sources said Kumar would seek the legislators’ views on how best to deal with the Tejashwi issue. “The CM has reached a point where he has to choose between his image and power. Before making a decision, he wants to know the views of the legislators,” said a JD(U) leader close to Kumar.

RJD sources said the party on Saturday decided to ask all its ministers to resign if Nitish Kumar insists on Tejashwi resigning. “If our leader does not remain deputy chief minister, our party will have no ministers in the government. In that case, RJD will lend outside support to the government,” said a minister from RJD. “No matter what comes, RJD would not allow the grand alliance government to fall,” he added.

In New Delhi, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi amid the crisis in Patna. Sources were tight-lipped about the nature of deliberations between the two leaders over the grand alliance but added that they want the alliance government o continue.

They are believed to discussed various options to defuse the crisis.

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