Explain source of wealth or Tejashwi Yadav must quit: Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) tells Lalu’s RJD
The JD(U)’s demand, dismissed by RJD chief Lalu Yadav, came despite attempts by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to broker truce among the allies.india Updated: Jul 15, 2017 00:06 IST
The rift in Bihar’s ruling “grand alliance” appeared to have widened as the Janata Dal (United) said on Friday that deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav should resign if his family fails to explain the source of funding for properties mired in an alleged scam.
The JD(U)’s demand, dismissed by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, followed efforts by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to broker truce among the two allies.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) rules the state with the RJD and Congress, which together defeated the BJP in the 2015 assembly election.
But RJD-JD(U) ties were strained after Prasad and his 26-year-old younger son, Tejashwi, were named in a land-for-hotels scandal, and the CBI raided their homes and other properties last week. The alleged scam is from Prasad’s stint as railway minister from 2004 to 2009.
The RJD chief, who was in Ranchi attending a fodder scam trial, snapped at a media contingent eager to know of his next move.
“Tejashwi was elected by the people, not by those asking for his resignation,” he said. His son had said he won’t step down.
Prasad returned to Patna with a court waiver of the hearing on Saturday and met top RJD leaders at his 10 Circular Road home to finalise the next step.
Congress president Gandhi spoke to chief minister Kumar to find a middle path to defuse the crisis and dispatched the party’s state chief Ashok Choudhary to play mediator.
The JD(U) stuck to its stand and party spokesperson Neeraj Kumar compared assets of the chief minister and Prasad.
“Nitish Kumar’s assets are known to the world, but on the other hand, what have you?” he asked Prasad.
He said the RJD chief, his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi, sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap, and three daughters, including Rajya Sabha parliamentarian Misa Bharati, are charged with benami deals. But the family has not given any “satisfactory” explanation.
“They must come clear and spell out the source of income,” he said. “The RJD owes it to the people and allies to issue a point by point rebuttal to the CBI charges and come clean on the allegations, or else, Tejashwi must resign.”
The JD(U), however, kept a window open to salvage the alliance as it didn’t specify a time limit for its partner to declare its funding source for the family properties that are under the scanner.
“Why should we spell out a deadline? We will take appropriate action at the right time,” Neeraj Kumar said.
The spat has reached a critical point as several JD(U) leaders suggested the party won’t accept “half-measures” and would sever the alliance if needed.
On Thursday, JD(U) state president Basishtha Narain Singh asked the RJD to explain its position on the deputy chief minister.
The party is worried as any fresh scam taint on the RJD could splash back on chief minister, who has the image of an honest, untainted politician and pursues a policy of “zero tolerance” against crime and corruption. Kumar’s image is his and the JD(U)’s biggest asset.
RJD leaders said Tejashwi’s resignation could be a possibility, but may not be immediate as it could reflect as an admission of guilt.
“The party also toyed with the idea of fully withdrawing all ministers from the Nitish cabinet, should Tejashwi resign,” said a party leader, who didn’t wish to be named.
Sources said the party will then lend outside support to the JD(U) to run the government and deny the BJP any political space. This would also convince the people that the RJD is not a spoiler, they added.