Patna: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday stepped into the political crisis dogging the ruling coalition in Bihar, as the JD-U stepped up pressure demanding the resignation of state Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.
However, Tejashwi Yadav, the younger son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, ruled out his resignation in the wake of corruption charges against him. Sources in JD-U said Sonia Gandhi had spoken with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad and appealed to both not to do anything to break the ruling Grand Alliance of JD-U, RJD and Congress, known as Mahagatbandhan.
However, it was still unclear whether she had asked Lalu Prasad to ask his son to quit to save the alliance from breaking. Sonia Gandhi reportedly intervened at the instance of JD-U leaders, who wanted to see that the issue does not precipitate the crisis further.
In a related development, state Congress leader and Education Minister Ashok Chowdhry went to Nitish Kumar’s official residence and was closeted with the Chief Minister for an hour. What transpired between them was not known. In a tweet, Tejaswhi Yadav made it clear that he is not resigning. He even claimed a section of the media has been “spreading lies” of him resigning.
“In the name of sources, a section of media is spreading lies that I am resigning. I am laughing at such lies as news,” Tejashwi Yadav said. He reiterated that he will not resign. His remarks on Twitter came even as alliance partner JD-U raised the pressure on RJD seeking resignation of Tejashwi Yadav, after the CBI registered a case against him and interrogated him during raids last week.
JD-U spokespersons Ajay Alok and Neeraj Kumar on Friday made it clear that the party will not compromise on corruption and their leader Nitish Kumar has never made any compromise for the sake of power. “People across the country are fully aware of Nitish Kumar’s clean image and his stand of zero tolerance against corruption.” The JD-U spokespersons also countered RJD MLA Bhai Virendra’s statement that RJD has 80 MLAs and “we will do what we want”, saying that the alliance won due to the clean image of Nitish Kumar.
According to RJD leaders, the party has decided that all its ministers in the Nitish Kumar cabinet will submit their resignations en masse to the Chief Minister if Tejashwi Yadav is compelled to quit. “RJD has no other way as BJP has conspired to target our leader Tejashwi Yadav. We have to stand with him,” the leaders said. Tejashwi Yadav, 28, is leader of the RJD legislature party in the Bihar Assembly.
RJD leaders said in case Tejashwi Yadav is forced to resign by Nitish Kumar the party’s ministers will only resign en masse, but it will not withdraw from the Mahagatbandhan government. “The RJD will continue to support the Nitish Kumar government from outside so as not to provide any opportunity to the BJP to extend support to him to run the government,” they said.
Lalu Prasad has been in Ranchi for the past two days to appear before a court in connection with the fodder scam. “The final decision will be taken by Laluji after his return from Ranchi on Friday evening,” a RJD leader said. The RJD claims the CBI action against Tejashwi Yadav is a political conspiracy to destabilize Bihar’s ruling Grand Alliance and “Nitish Kumar knew about it”.
Nitish Kumar has yet to say anything directly to media on the Tejashwi Yadav issue. Earlier this month, the CBI conducted raids across four cities in a corruption case in which Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav are among the accused. The case relates to alleged manipulation in award of contract for maintenance of two hotels run by a subsidiary of the Indian Railways – IRCTC — when the RJD chief was Railways Minister in the United Progressive Alliance government.