Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar faces a litmus test after RJD supremo Lalu Prasad made it clear that his son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav would not resign from his post.
In defence of his son, Lalu Prasad had taken the plea that registration of an FIR against Tejaswi by CBI was not a valid reason for his resignation.
Lalu, through a political masterstroke, has put the ball in Kumar’s court, who continues to be in a dilemma over his next step, as Yadav virtually did not take any notice of the Chief Minister`s earlier advice to counter CBI charges by giving a point-by-point rebuttal in public.
Kumar, who has created his political capital by building a clean image, is virtually in the crosshairs of coalition politics as his deputy and RJD Chief Lalu Prasad`s son Tejaswi Yadav has refused to resign from his post.
Taking a belligerent approach to the demand for his resignation, Yadav asserted he is not required to resign as he has done nothing wrong. CBI`s FIR against him in the land for railway hotels scam is politically motivated, he argues.
Toeing his father’s line, Yadav has insisted that CBI has acted against him on the instructions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, in connection with a case related to leasing out Railway hotels to private parties in 2006 when RJD chief Prasad was Railway Minister.
Tejaswi`s aggressive attitude has only precipitated the crisis in the grand alliance, which is inching towards collapse unless both coalition partners agree to broker peace through ‘meaningful’ negotiations.
As JD(U) president and Chief Minister Kumar knows very well that he can carry on with a ‘tainted’ minister in his cabinet only at his own peril.
But if the clean image of Kumar is his core strength, RJD`s political capital hinges on its undiluted and non-compromising approach towards BJP, a factor which tilts the balance in its favours in the grouping of Opposition parties. It is the reason Congress also does not want to annoy RJD and stood behind the party firmly when CBI had conducted raids at premises of Lalu and his family members recently.
Fearing RJD and JD(U) drifting apart on the issue of resignation of Tejaswi, the Congress has intervened to save the situation before it reaches the point of no return.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi have called Nitish Kumar in their attempt to understand his mood on the issue of Tejaswi`s resignation.
Congress will try its level best to bring a truce between RJD and JD(U) because if the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in Bihar collapses due to ‘clash of interests’ between two regional satraps, the grand old party`s plan to create a Bihar type grand alliance ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha election would be apparently nipped in the bud.
While Kumar has the option of returning to BJP in the event of a breakup with RJD, Lalu and his family members can play the ‘victim card’ to emerge from the crisis unscathed.
The Chief Minister has to calculate his ‘profits and losses’ carefully, as he will have to give up his ambition of becoming Prime Ministerial candidate in the next Lok Saha elections if he returns to NDA.
Additionally, he will have to accept the company of a new BJP, which is more ‘saffronised’ than what it was when he had severed ties with the party in 2013 after Narendra Modi was declared BJP`s Prime Ministerial nominee for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He also runs the risk of facing accusations of being inconsistent on the principle of secularism. RJD, which had survived its worst time when Lalu Prasad was chargesheeted and jailed in the multi-crore fodder scam by putting up a brave face, knows very well that it can ill-afford to be on the defensive when Tejaswi is under attack.
Instead of acting swiftly against Tejaswi, Chief Minister Kumar can wait till he is chargesheeted in the case providing him sufficient ground to demand resignation from him.
In such a case, Lalu`s eldest son Tej Pratap Yadav, who is presently state Health Minister, could be elevated to the post of Deputy Chief Minister after Tejaswi demits the office.
But it all depends how long Nitish Kumar is ready to wait as he would be forced to take a call on Tejaswi`s resignation if he is really convinced that any further delay would dent his image without leaving any scope for redemption.
The fragile grand alliance has seen many turbulent days in the past but this time, threat to its survival is real and more serious.
- DHEERAJ KUMAR