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Nitish's balancing act after CBI raids on ally Lalu

Neither wants to rock alliance in Bihar, nor be seen backing RJD chief in fresh graft case

Archis Mohan & Satyavrat Mishra  |  New Delhi/Patna 

RJD chief Lalu Prasad reaches CBI Court in a case related to the fodder scam in Ranchi
RJD chief Lalu Prasad reaches CBI Court in a case related to the fodder scam in Ranchi on Friday. Photo: PTI

In a balancing act, Bihar Chief Minister is neither willing to hurt the coalition government that he leads in the state, nor be seen supporting ally 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 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 managing director P K Goel and Directors of Sujata Hotels — Vijay Koccher and Vinay Koccher.

The has prepared its defence for Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) demand that Kumar sack Tejaswi. The is likely to argue that if can continue as a minister in the 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 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 spokesperson said there was a gag order from the top leadership to not comment on the issue.

The also did not issue any statement but Nationalist 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, and the (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) against me and my family.” Information and Broadcasting Minister rejected accusations of political vendetta. “Where is in this? The 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 in 2019. The chief announced a unity rally of the Opposition in Patna on August 27. Some and Bihar leaders pointed out the crisis would only strengthen Kumar’s position, as Prasad’s fresh troubles would erode his bargaining power within the coalition. sources also pointed out the ‘grand alliance’ between Prasad and Kumar had come in 2015 when the chief had already been convicted in the fodder scam case.

As for the case, it also includes names of former 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 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.

First Published: Sat, July 08 2017. 00:27 IST