Out from prison on Saturday, RJD leader Mohammad Shahabuddin said “circumstances” led to Nitish Kumar becoming Bihar’s chief minister, sparking a war of words within the ruling grand alliance.
Janata Dal (United) stood by Kumar and so did ally Congress. But the Rashtriya Janata Dal—the leading constituent in the alliance of the three parties —justified the comment by the former Siwan MP.
While talking to reporters after being released from Bhagalpur jail , Shahabuddin said Kumar became a chief minister due to circumstances.
JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh rubbished the statement, saying the alliance won last year’s assembly polls on by projecting Kumar as the CM candidate.
It was up to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to “now explain under what circumstances Nitish was projected as CM”, he added.
Senior JD(U) leader Shyam Rajak said people had accepted Kumar as the CM. “He is a necessity for the state. Under him, Bihar has developed. Now the people of the entire country, too, recognise his work,” added Rajak, who was once a close lieutenant of Prasad.
The Congress too toed the JD(U) line. “Kumar is not an accidental or circumstantial leader,” said senior leader Prem Chandra Mishra. “All the three alliance partners of GA projected and contested Bihar elections under his name. Kumar is the face of the alliance.”
But top RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh defended Shahubuddin’s comment and said the CM was “indeed made of circumstances”.
“There is no denying that Lalu Prasad is the real leader. Does Nitish have the strength (to form a government),” asked the ex-Union minister who has often attacked the CM often over issues, including Kumar’s move to ban prohibition in the state.
The RJD, with 80 seats, is the single largest party in the alliance. The JD(U) has 71 and the Congress 27.
As the war of words among the allies broke out, the opposition National Democratic Alliance in the state lost no time in lapping up the issue, even as the CM left for Jamshedpur to attend a rally.
The BJP asked Kumar whether Shahabuddin’s unchallenged release was the CM’s idea of the ‘rule of law’ promised by him. Shahabuddin faces more around 40 criminal cases, including those of abduction and murder.
“This is bad for the state. Will the government follow the same yardstick for others as well?” asked BJP spokesperson Binodanad Jha.
Senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav said: “Only Lalu Prasad can reply to Shahubuddin’s observation.”
Ahead of the state assembly elections in October-November, the JD(U) and the RJD joined hands despite long-term rivalry. On coming to power, both have often sparred, more so after Kumar started getting projected as a national alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The JD(U) has suggested that Kumar would be “no less capable” a PM than incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while the RJD insists Prasad is the nation’s face of an anti-BJP alliance.
- 2004: Munna Choudhary abduction
- 2007: Firing at his native place Pratappur, Siwan
- 2006: Attack on police officer
- 2006: Attack on CPI-ML workers sitting on dharna at collectorate
- 2010: Surendra Patel murder case
- 2011: Attack on a village head
- 2007: Life sentence in Chhote Lal abduction case
- 2007: Two-year jail term in Keshav Baitha murder case
- 2008: 10-year sentence for keeping foreign pistol
- 2010: 10-year-setence for firing on then Siwan SP
- 2015: Life sentence in acid bath case, in which he got bail
- 1990: A bomb blast case and threat to a contractor
- 1997: Threat to a station house officer