Mudda debates future of Bihar ruling coalition

Political games have hotted up in Bihar with the state’s incumbent deputy chief minister, Tejashwi Yadav, passing a remark saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are scared of a 28-year-old young man, in a not-so-veiled reference to himself.

Last week, the CBI had booked former Bihar chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, and Tejashwi, for graft. The charges are linked to the award of a tender for the maintenance of two railway hotels in Ranchi and Puri in 2006 when the RJD head was railway minister. Raids had been conducted at 12 locations, including Lalu’s Patna home. The CBI said the Railways did not have details of bidders except Sujata Hotels. The ownership of Delight, a marketing company, mysteriously changed hands to Rabri and Tejashwi, sometime between 2010 and 2014. Lalu’s elder son, health minister Tej Pratap, meanwhile, is also in trouble with BJP’s Sushil Modi moving the EC for disqualifying him as MLA for hiding his assets.

There have been demands that Nitish Kumar sack Tejashwi even while the Bihar CM has been seeing getting closer to former ally BJP inasmuch as he broke the Opposition ranks to support its presidential choice, Ram Nath Kovind. Detractors and political observers have also been wondering about his apparent silence which he broke on Tuesday when he handed an ultimatum of four days to Lalu to decide on his son’s fate.

In the silent battle of wills that is in progress, who will gain the upper hand and Kumar’s support—the RJD or the BJP? Mudda, APN’s daily current affairs debate, on Wednesday pondered various aspects of this question. Participants included BJP spokesperson Anila Singh, RJD spokesperson Naval Kishore, Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajput and JD(U) leader Prabhat Ranjan as well as senior journalist Govind Pant Raju. The show was moderated by Himanshu Dixit.

To begin with, Dixit questioned the ultimatum citing reports from Rajya Sabha member belonging to JD(U) KC Tyagi stating that no such deadline was set out. JD(U) spokesperson Ranjan, too, did not deny news of the ultimatum. But he said it would be safe not to use the word. He went on to remind the audience about how Nitish Kumar had resigned as railway minister in 1999 following the Gaisal train disaster even though then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee opposed his decision. He maintained that the JD(U) would display “zero tolerance for corruption”.

Dixit then asked him to show some examples from the present time. Ranjan cited the examples of two JD(U) state ministers, including Ram Aadhaar Singh, who resigned following allegations.

The RJD spokesperson said that ties between his party and the JD(U) were “unbreakable”. He also said even though there had been FIRs filed against Tejashwi, Lalu and Rabri, such instances were commonplace, with cases against 11 ministers in the Modi government and five suits against UP CM Yogi Adityanath, who is also from the BJP. He accused the party of coercing the CBI to conduct the raids on Lalu’s premises with the motive of making trouble for the ruling alliance.

In response, the BJP spokesperson said, “Eight or 28, whoever breaks the law must face consequences.” She also taunted the RJD, saying that the fact that its leaders were crying themselves hoarse over the purported strength of their alliance betrayed their insecurity.

MP from Jan Adhikar Morcha Pappu Yadav then came on the telephone line to inform that all was not well in JD(U). “Why has Nitish been seeing Arun Jaitley since Lalu met him behind closed doors on April 14? The first meeting between Nitish and the union finance minister took place four days after that date. There are continuing differences between Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. Way back in 2008, Sharad Yadav, Lallan Singh and Chidanand Tiwari submitted documents on Lalu before the Manmohan Singh government following which Tiwari got the FIR registered. Nitish really is faced with a Hobson’s choice. He must now pick between the devil and the deep sea. But I think there can be no compromise without a resignation.”

Kishore, the RJD spokesperson, then tried to put up a defence by repeating his old allegations. It seemed to fall flat.

Pappu then came back on the line to express his resentment about Nitish taking the resignation of former CM Jitan Manjhi but giving four days time to Tejashwi, thus holding the two to different standards. He strongly demanded that Tejashwi quit with immediate effect.

The Congress spokesperson felt that the BJP has constantly been fighting elections since coming to power at the centre in 2014. As far as FIRs against its members are concerned, the BJP have different standards for different leaders, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh were held to different ones than LK Advani.

At last, Govind Pant Raju came out with his opinion. He said Nitish Kumar was sensitive about his image, but there is no immediate threat to the mahagatthbandhan comprising the JD(U), RJD and Congress. “Lalu always has the option of pushing his other son, Tej Pratap. And Tejashwi can make a statement by resigning and bringing himself back to power by mobilising the masses suitably. But it is inappropriate for him to play the victim card saying that he belongs to a backward caste. If someone whose parents have been CM says he is powerless, caste politics will not end in India even in the next 200 years. This shows he has no defence. If he is truly innocent, I challenge him to resign, come out among the people and prove himself,” Raju said.

Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta