Lalu & Nitish: Brinkmanship masters face a final test

Tejaswi Yadav’s refusal to resign as Bihar’s Deputy CM despite an FIR registered by CBI against him for alleged corruption has turned relations within the state’s vaunted grand alliance toxic.

Published: 22nd July 2017 10:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd July 2017 11:18 AM   |  A+A-

PATNA: Tejaswi Yadav’s refusal to resign as Bihar’s Deputy CM despite an FIR registered by CBI against him for alleged corruption has turned relations within the state’s vaunted grand alliance toxic. RJD’s 28-year-old first-time legislator, better known as party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s younger son, has challenged CM and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar’s authority in the government.

JD(U)’s repeated assertions of Nitish’s “zero tolerance policy” for corruption and calls for Tejaswi to “publicly clarify” allegations against him have brought no change in RJD’s rigid stance. Mediation by Congress has proved futile and prompted the party to stand beside RJD. Nitish, who has the record of dropping three ministers due to corruption allegations, wants Tejaswi to step down. But Lalu doesn’t want his heir apparent to lose the number 2 post in the government “just because of an FIR”.

With the deadlock dragging on for 16 days and Nitish’s halo of a politician with clean credentials and impeccable principles losing shine, the three-party ruling alliance is balanced on a precipice.
The only question now is: Who will blink first, Lalu or Nitish, to stop their alliance from heading for an implosive showdown? None is willing as each seeks to gain politically from the impasse and any likely outcome despite the risks involved.

Scenario 1
Lalu relents, claims ‘sacrifice’

Since he is keen to ensure the Grand Alliance and the Nitish-led government continues, Lalu may let Tejaswi step down. The RJD chief will portray this as “another sacrifice”—the first being the choice of Nitish as CM—to keep BJP away from power. Nitish will get a reprieve and continue to rule Bihar with his hands stronger and his chances of becoming UPA’s PM candidate brighter.

Scenario 2
Lalu digs in his heels

Nitish may continue his silence and endure the embarrassing stalemate till the CBI files a chargesheet against Tejaswi. By then, Congress is expected to have convinced Lalu to agree to Tejaswi’s removal. Even if Lalu disagrees, Nitish may sack Tejaswi, vindicate his moral high ground, and allow RJD to nominate another leader to fill Tejaswi’s post.

Scenario 3
RJD withdraws support

If Tejaswi is sacked, RJD may cry victim and portray Nitish as the villain who acted at BJP’s instance. RJD may withdraw support, leading to President’s Rule and an eventual election, or BJP propping up the government with outside support to JD(U). Nitish may emerge a winner as he could portray Lalu’s tall claims of secularism as a cover for dynasty politics and corruption.

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