Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday hinted at severing ties with chief minister Nitish Kumar but vowed to continue the battle against the “fascist” BJP, accusing the Centre of launching a witch-hunt for political vendetta.
Prasad’s attack on the BJP-led government at the Centre came hours after Income Tax department conducted raids on at least 22 locations in Delhi and adjoining areas in a probe into alleged benami deals worth Rs 1,000 crore, linked to him and some of his family members.
“BJP ko naiye alliance partners mubarak ho. Lalu Prasad jhukney aur darney wala nahin. Jab tak aakhri saans hain fashiwaadi takhto ke saath lartha rahunga (Congratulations to BJP on its new alliance partners. Lalu will continue to fight fascist forces till the last breath),” Lalu tweeted.
Though Lalu is known to attack the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi frequently, what set the cat among the pigeons was his mention of “new alliance partners” of the saffron party, which many believed is a threat to his ally Nitish Kumar.
Lalu’s RJD is part of the Kumar-led grand alliance government that also includes the Congress. Lalu’s two sons – Tez Pratap and Tejaswi – are ministers in the Nitish government.
On Monday, the chief minister said the Centre was free to take action against those facing corruption charges.
Political analysts said that Lalu, facing a barrage of corruption charges, has tried to send across a message to the BJP as well as the JD(U) that any fresh unity among the two parties would not affect him and he will single-handedly take on the BJP.
“The RJD chief’s statement reflects how Prasad, after the IT raids and growing attacks from the BJP, does not want any dilution of his clout within the grand alliance and give JD(U) a leeway to put pressure on him in matter of governance ,” said a senior RJD leader, who did not want to be named.
The JD (U) and BJP were allies before the Nitish Kumar broke the alliance ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Many credit Lalu Prasad of the grand alliance’s victory in the 2015 Bihar assembly, during the height of the Modi wave.
Last week, the Supreme Court revived the criminal conspiracy charges against Lalu Prasad in one of the five pending cases in the fodder scam, rejecting his plea that he cannot be prosecuted twice for the same offence.
The court ruling is seen as a big setback to the powerful regional satrap who was disqualified from Parliament and banned from contesting elections after he was convicted of corruption in 2013 in one of the biggest scams in Bihar.
However, shortly after Lalu’s tweet, RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha appeared to have launched a damage control, saying the reference to “new alliance partners” was an allusion to how the BJP had picked up Income Tax department and CBI as its partners to harass political rivals.
“We say, IT and CBI have now become BJP’s new alliance partners as they are being used to intimidate arch rivals like Lalu Prasad and others. It has nothing to do with the grand alliance,” he said.
Lalu also sent a a couple of more tweets, mocking people creating hype about the raids and asserted thta attempts to suppress his voice would see thousands of Lalu taking centre stage against the BJP.
The RJD chief remained confined within his 10 Circular Road residence throughout the day as the raids targetted properties acquired through alleged dubious deals by his family members including his MP-daughter Misa Bharti and his two sons.
Union minister Kanti Singh and former MLA Ajit Jha, both of whom had courted controversy for having gifted property to Tej and Tejashwi, were among the few people who met Lalu at around 11.30 am .
Earlier in the day, the RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh also attacked Modi and the NDA government accusing them of harassing Lalu for political vendetta and weaken his bid to unite secular forces ahead of the 2019 polls.