The Janata Dal (United)- Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) alliance in Bihar took another step towards the brink on Tuesday.
While RJD has rejected the possibility of Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav quitting over charges of corruption against him, the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) has asked RJD chief Lalu Prasad's son to put out his defence in the public domain.
Kumar held a meeting of his party's Members of Parliament, legislators and office bearers in Patna to discuss the situation that has arisen after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has charged Prasad, his family members, including his son Tejaswi, in a corruption case and has been raiding premises owned by the family in Patna, Delhi and Gurugram.
While no timeline has been fixed, a senior JD(U) leader said in the days to come Tejaswi should either put out a convincing explanation about his involvement in the case or else quit the government. "We are committed to our alliance with RJD, but it would embarrass the government if Tejaswi were to be arrested while he is still the deputy chief minister," the JD(U) leader said. He said the party wasn't concerned with the charges on Prasad and his daughter Misa Bharati since the two were not ministers in the Bihar government.
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said in Patna that his party has never compromised on crime and corruption in the past and would not do it in future. "There cannot be two different standards on the issue. We would ask those accused in the corruption case to counter the charges with facts. They must put out the facts in public domain," the spokesperson said. The JD(U) has argued that RJD shouldn't raise the bogey of secularism and political vendetta but counter the charges on facts.
This is the first time JD(U) has issued a statement in the aftermath of the CBI raids on Lalu Prasad in connection with a corruption case. Lalu Prasad is accused of helping a private hotelier to get two IRCTC hotels on long term lease in return of his family acquiring three-acres of prime land in Patna at a throwaway price. The plot of land is owned by a company in which Prasad's wife Rabri Devi, sons Tejaswi and Tej Pratap own all the shares. Tej Pratap is also a minister in the Bihar government.
In New Delhi, JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav attended the meeting of the Opposition to discuss its vice presidential candidate. JD (U) spokesperson and former MP KC Tyagi, who was earlier also to attend the meeting, stayed away. Party sources said JD (U) was yet to take a final decision on whether it would support the vice presidential candidate of the Opposition, indicating that Sharad Yadav and the Bihar CM weren't on the same page on the issue.
In Patna, party insiders insisted that Kumar's image is that of a politician with integrity with zero tolerance to corruption, and he would fight to keep it that way. After the JD (U) meeting, Lalu Prasad also reportedly convened a meeting of his most trusted lieutenants at his official residence late Tuesday evening. Senior RJD leaders were seen rushing into his official residence. The meeting of state cabinet has also been called on Wednesday.
In Patna, leaders in the two parties are talking in hushed tones how one of the parties, particularly RJD, might face defection of legislators to JD(U) if it were to withdraw support on the question of Tejaswi having to quit the government.
"But we still think Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad would find a way out sitting across the table," a senior JD(U) leader said. Meanwhile, the BJP has promised outside support to a Kumar-led government but its Bihar allies like Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha oppose such a move.