RJD chief Lalu Prasad and all the ministers of his party, senior partner in Bihar’s ruling ‘grand alliance’, did not turn up at the inaugural function of ‘Bihar Diwas’, the state’s foundation, addressed by chief minister Nitish Kumar, at Gandhi Maidan here on Wednesday.
The absence of all RJD ministers, including deputy CM Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav, health minister Tej Pratap Yadav, finance minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui and cooperative minister Alok Mehta, at the function, sparked speculation of growing irritants between the RJD and Nitish Kumar-led JD (U).
Last week, former CM Rabri Devi and her son, Tejashwi, had stated in public that the RJD was the rightful claimant to the post of the legislative council chairman after BJP’s Awadhesh Narayan Singh retired from the post in May.
But the JD (U) leadership had remained non-committal on this issue.
The claim came amidst the suggestion in RJD circles that CM Kumar had ‘helped’ Singh win the legislative council election from the Gaya graduates’ constituency last week and wanted him to get another term as council chairman.
Before that, RJD and JD (U) leaders had crossed swords over the utterances of senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who accused chief minister Kumar of ‘helping’ the BJP win the Uttar Pradesh assembly poll by not making his JD (U) join the SP-Congress alliance in UP.
However, cooperative minister Alok Kumar Mehta was quick to scotch speculations, saying not much should be read into the absence of RJD ministers, as they were “engaged in work in their respective constituencies”.
“I was myself in Samastipur with Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary to attend a farmers’ conference organised on the occasion of Bihar Diwas. I wanted to return, but the response to the programme was so big that I got delayed”, Mehta said.
“It is just a coincidence that the RJD ministers could not attend the Bihar day function in Patna. It’s not the way it seems. The media is just speculating about differences,” he added.
In the absence of RJD leaders, CM said at the inaugural function that after the success of prohibition, his government was now focused on de-addiction and was making a concerted effort to ensure that alcoholics did not shift to other forms of addiction.
“The people’s response to prohibition has been overwhelming and the demand for it is now being raised across the country. Today, the campaign for de-addiction, which started with the formation of a 4 crore people human chain on January 21, ends, but the crusade will continue,” he added.