PATNA: Bihar chief minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar on Saturday met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and reportedly urged him to prevail upon RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav to ensure his younger son Tejashwi Yadav resigns as the state’s deputy chief minister.
JD(U) sources said Kumar, during the 20-minute discussion he held with Gandhi, explained Bihar’s current political situation and the people’s expectations from the state government after Tejashwi was named in an FIR registered by CBI in a corruption case on July 6. Despite JD(U)’s clear hints that Tejashwi should step down, Lalu is unwilling to ensure the exit of his heir apparent from the state cabinet and thus “weakening and endangering” the grand alliance government, Kumar is understood to have told Gandhi.
“He (Nitish) also reminded the Congress leader how, in September 2013, the latter had angrily torn off a copy of the UPA government’s proposed ordinance aimed at protecting convicted politicians from disqualification from elected office,” said a JD(U) leader close to Kumar. The UPA government had planned the ordinance just days after Lalu was convicted in a fodder scam case. Kumar is understood to have told Gandhi that as chief minister he would not allow Tejashwi’s continuation in his cabinet and that sacking him might be the only option left before him now. Gandhi listened to Kumar with patience and, in the words of JD(U) national general secretary KC Tyagi, the meeting took place “in a cordial atmosphere”.
“The CM assured Gandhi that he is keen on ensuring that the three-party alliance government completes its full term ending in 2020 and that Tejashwi himself resigning would be in the best interests of the government and the future of the alliance,” said the JD(U) leader. During the discussion, Lalu’s claim of the CBI action against Tejashwi being part of the Narendra Modi government’s vendetta politics also came up briefly, and both Kumar and Gandhi are believed to have rejected it. Congress sources said Gandhi was aware of the hotel-for-land allegations against Lalu as JD(U) leaders had brought them before then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. With Rahul Gandhi having reportedly promised Kumar that he would try to end the current stalemate in Bihar’s ruling alliance, Congress sources said party national general secretary and in-charge of Bihar, CP Joshi, would be asked to speak with Lalu.
BJP leaders mocked Kumar for conferring with Gandhi sixteen days after the CBI FIR and the raid on the Lalu-Rabri house in Patna, during which Tejashwi was interrogated for three hours. “What can Congress do when its state leaders are siding with Lalu over calls for Tejashwi’s resignation? Can the Congress leadership do anything worthwhile in this matter when they had failed to ensure the resignation of Virbhadra Singh?” asked senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi. Meanwhile, relations between RJD and JD(U) sank to a new low on Saturday with the discovery of a few banners hung at public sites in Patna. The banners, which carried photographs of four JD(U) spokespersons, attacked the JD(U) leaders, saying: “JD(U) spokespersons are speaking rubbish. They are speaking despite Nitish having asked them not to. They are acting at the behest of Sushil Kumar Modi”. The banners, allegedly put up by some RJD leaders, drew sharp reactions from the JD(U) spokespersons, who said their party still awaits Tejashwi’s “point-by-point clarification” on the charges he faces.