The fresh CBI case against Lalu Prasad and his family members for alleged corruption may have invited noisy protests from his party but its ally JD(U) has maintained a studied silence and not defended the beleaguered RJD boss.
Several party leaders declined to come on record while reacting to the new case against Prasad, already convicted in a fodder scam case, an indication that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants to keep his 'Mr clean' image intact without being seen to be denting the opposition unity again after raising a storm with his support to the NDA's presidential nominee.
With troubles mounting for the RJD supremo, a JD(U) leader said his party will wait and watch how things unfold in the coming weeks and months. There is a belief among a section of leaders that Kumar's position will only be strengthened and Prasad's weakened, reducing the Yadav strongman's bargaining power within the RJD-JD(U)-Congress coalition and allowing the chief minister greater freedom in running the government.
Replying to a question on whether the coalition government would last its full term, several JD(U) leaders said it will and indicated that there may not be any immediate action against Deputy Chief Minister and Prasad's son Tejashwi Yadav. Tejashwi has also been made an accused in the CBI case related to alleged irregularities and bribery in award of contract for maintenance of two IRCTC hotels when the RJD supremo was railway minister.
Meanwhile, the BJP has demanded Tejashwi's dismissal from the government. "There are two views. One is that the NDA government is targeting opposition leaders. Another is that corrupt leaders have been targeted. We cannot hold Tejashwi guilty just because of a CBI case. Let's see how investigation progresses," a leader said speaking on condition of anonymity.
He noted that Union Minister Uma Bharti continues to be a member of the Modi cabinet despite charges having been framed against her in the Babri mosque demolition case.
Another senior JD(U) leader said when the party joined hands with the RJD in 2014 following the rout of both in the Lok Sabha polls, Lalu Prasad had already been convicted in a fodder scam case. However, a major adverse development against Tejashwi Yadav, seen as Prasad's political heir, in the case could trigger dramatic developments in Bihar's ruling alliance.
With Kumar keeping his cards close to chest, nothing can be said with certainty, a close aide of his said, adding "except wait and watch".