Amid troubles between ruling partners in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday met his deputy Tejashwi Yadav for a crucial Cabinet meeting and later held a closed-door discussion. The meeting between the two leaders came amid demands from the Nitish's JD(U) calling for the resignation of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's son. Tejashwi's name is mired in a controversy following registration of an FIR by the CBI in connection with a corruption case which also names Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi.
All 12 ministers from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, including Tejashwi and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav, arrived together for the meeting that was chaired by Nitish. After the meeting, all 12 of them went to Lalu's residence for a party meeting.
Nitish, who has not said anything on the controversy publicly, invited Tejashwi to his chamber for a closed-door discussion after the Cabinet meeting. Tejwashi and Tej Pratap both entered Nitish's chamber together but the elder brother soon left. According to informed sources, the meeting lasted nearly 35 minutes where the deputy CM is believed to have told his superior that he would not resign from the post and will instead take legal route to clear his name. He is believed to have cited the example of Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand -- Virbhadra Singh, Yogi Adityananath, Raghubar Das respectively -- who have stayed in their posts amid legal troubles.
Sources in the RJD said that Tejashwi would not resign from the post and will instead approach CBI court for bail.
It was being speculated that Nitish could take a decision on Tejashwi's fate today, but no public statement has been made by either party. Kumar, the national president of the Janata Dal (United), has adopted a tough stance on the matter that has been hurting his image of ‘sushasan babu’ (man of good governance). The JD(U) and RJD are part of the ruling Grand Alliance of which the Congress is also a member.
While the JD(U) has repeatedly asked Yadav to put facts in public domain to defend himself or quit on his own, the RJD has so far appeared adamant on its stand that the mere registration of an FIR doesn’t suffice as ground for resignation.
It was believed that Kumar had deferred his decision on Yadav in the wake of July 17 Presidential election in view of political compulsions. However, now that the election is over, Kumar could take a final call, putting all questions being raised on his silence to rest.
Today, JDU spokesperson Niraj Kumar said that the CM will never compromise on the matter on corruption and that the Deputy CM will have to come up with concrete proof. “The JD(U)’s stand remains the same. The party will never compromise with its ideology. Tejashwi Yadav will have to clear the air on the charges against him and prove his innocence,” he said.
The RJD too has been apparently avoiding Nitish, as far as public appearances go. Last week, Tejashwi avoided sharing dais with Kumar at a government function in Patna just days after his security guards had thrashed a video journalist outside the Secretariat building for purring questions related to the case. Lalu and Nitish too have been avoiding from making public appearances. The two were likely to meet at the shradh of a Congress MLA in Sheikhpura but Lalu skipped the event.
Observers were divided on whether Tejashwi would attend today’s cabinet meet to be chaired by Nitish. As it turns out, the Deputy CM will be making his appearance there in a short while from now.
Last week, the JD(U), which has 71 MLAs in 243-chair House, had given four-day ultimatum to the RJD to clear the air involving Yadav. The RJD is the largest party with 80 MLAs. The Congress has 27 lawmakers.
With cracks in the Mahagathbandhan widening each day and leaders of JD(U) and RJD openly attacking each other over Tejashwi, all eyes will now be on the stand Nitish takes in the matter. The ball is clearly now in his court.