In a balancing act, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
is neither willing to hurt the coalition government that he leads in the state, nor be seen supporting ally Lalu Prasad
in a fresh case of alleged corruption the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and his family face.
While concerned of his image and his party, the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), Kumar’s government plans to brazen out the controversy soon as it would take two months for a chargesheet to be filed, followed by a protracted court case.
Kumar’s deputy and Prasad’s son Tejaswi Yadav
has been named in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) First Information Report (FIR), along with his parents and others, including Sarla Gupta, wife of Prasad’s confidant and former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta, former IRCTC
managing director P K Goel and Directors of Sujata Hotels — Vijay Koccher and Vinay Koccher.
has prepared its defence for Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) demand that Kumar sack Tejaswi. The JD(U)
is likely to argue that if Uma Bharti
can continue as a minister in the Narendra Modi
Cabinet despite being chargesheeted in the Babri Masjid demolition case, so can Tejaswi, unless he is convicted by a court of law.
It could, however, put pressure on the Grand Alliance if Modi asks Bharti to quit.
On Friday, the CBI
raided a dozen premises across the country, including Prasad’s residence in Patna, in connection with alleged irregularities in leasing two railway hotels to a private company when he was the Union railway minister in the UPA-I government. Simultaneous raids were conducted at Delhi, Ranchi, Puri and Gurugram.
Kumar and party leaders maintained an inscrutable silence on the issue. A JD(U)
spokesperson said there was a gag order from the top leadership to not comment on the issue.
also did not issue any statement but Nationalist Congress
Party leader Tariq Anwar accused the Modi government of a strategy to harass the Opposition by using central agencies to frame its leaders in false cases.
In Patna, Prasad said: “It’s a conspiracy of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah
and the RSS
(Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) against me and my family.” Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu
rejected accusations of political vendetta. “Where is BJP
in this? The CBI
is doing its duty,” he said.
Party sources said the challenge before Kumar was to ensure his image of an honest politician wasn’t blotted and that the ‘Grand Alliance’ in Bihar was not broken, being looked as a model to be replicated across the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, to defeat the BJP
in 2019. The RJD
chief announced a unity rally of the Opposition in Patna on August 27. Some JD(U)
and Bihar BJP
leaders pointed out the crisis would only strengthen Kumar’s position, as Prasad’s fresh troubles would erode his bargaining power within the coalition. JD(U)
sources also pointed out the ‘grand alliance’ between Prasad and Kumar had come in 2015 when the RJD
chief had already been convicted in the fodder scam case.
As for the CBI
case, it also includes names of former IRCTC
MD PK Goel and Directors of Sujata Hotels, Vijay Koccher and Vinay Koccher. The simultaneous raids were conducted at premises in in Delhi, Ranchi, Puri and Gurugram.
Bihar has a 243-member Assembly. The RJD
is the largest partner in the alliance with 80 seats, followed by JD(U)’s 71 and Congress’ 27. The majority mark is 122-seats.