PATNA: With the strained relations between JD(U) and RJD turning hostile over rising demands for deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav’s resignation, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday spoke with both chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, and a fresh effort began to save Bihar’s embattled alliance government.
Despite the “four-day ultimatum” issued by Kumar to RJD, which ends on Saturday, RJD leaders remained adamant on their stance that Tejaswi, who is Lalu’s younger son, would not resign because of the FIR registered against him by CBI in a corruption case.
But JD(U) stepped up the pressure and asked Lalu’s family members to “come clean” by disclosing the source of their income and assets. JD(U) leaders also jeered at RJD for showing off their numerical supremacy in the Assembly.
Hours after Sonia Gandhi spoke over the phone with both Lalu and Nitish, who is also the JD(U) national president, Bihar Congress chief and education minister Ashok Chaudhary rushed to Kumar’s residence.
The two leaders were closeted for over an hour and, according to sources, discussed ways to reduce the tensions between RJD and JD(U).
“Chaudhary conveyed to Kumar Sonia Gandhi’s desire that the alliance government should not be harmed in any way, and the two leaders discussed a possible middle path to avert a real crisis,” said a senior Congress leader. The “middle path,” he explained, would be “something respectable for both sides – Lalu’s ego and Nitish’s clean image”.
Although Kumar reportedly agreed reluctantly, he is expected to take a final decision after meeting Lalu, who cut short his sojourn in Ranchi and came back to Patna in the evening. He then went into a huddle at his residence with a galaxy of senior RJD leaders.
“He (Tejaswi) was not elected and made deputy chief minister at anybody’s mercy,” said Lalu to reporters in Ranchi when asked if Tejaswi would resign.
RJD leaders said what Lalu meant was that it was Bihar’s people who had voted for RJD and that neither JD(U) nor BJP should decide if he would resign.
Kumar, after his meeting with Chaudhary, reportedly asked JD(U) spokespersons not to issue damaging statements against RJD and Lalu’s family. Earlier in the day, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar had asked Lalu’s family members, without naming them, to disclose the sources of their income and assets.