Grand alliance groans as JD (U) MLAs resolve to vote for Kovind; no word on Tejashwi

There was no discussion on the present political situation as the meeting was convened only to discuss the strategy for Monday’s presidential election, said Bihar JD (U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2017 21:14 IST
Anil Kumar
Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
JD (U) meet,Presidential poll,CM Nitish Kumar
JD (U) legislators outside the residence of party president and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, in Patna on Sunday. (Santosh/HT photo)

The JD (U) Legislature Party meeting, presided over by party national president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, here on Sunday, unanimously resolved to vote en-masse in favour of NDA-backed candidate Ram Nath Kovind, in the Presidential election on Monday.

The meeting poured cold waters on the media speculation its deliberations would lift the curtain on the uncertainty shrouding deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav’s fate in ministry, as the matter did not come in for discussion.

“There was no discussion on the present political situation as the meeting was convened only to discuss the poll strategy for presidential election”, said Bihar JD (U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh, after its conclusion.

Parliamentary Affairs minister Shrawan Kumar said, “legislators, including first timers, were apprised of the voting process to ensure that their votes don’t go waste.”

Unlike its other two Grand Alliance partners—the RJD and Congress, the JD (U) unilaterally decided to support Kovind, a former Bihar Governor, even before the Opposition could name its candidate—Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha Speaker and a native of Bihar.

The JD (U) decision had triggered a war of words among the three allies.

During the meeting on Sunday, the chief minister is learnt to have apprised legislators of the reasons for party’s stand on Kovind, including his cordial tenure with the Nitish government as Governor of Bihar (2015-17). He said this was also conveyed to Lalu Prasad and Sonia Gandhi, presidents of JD (U) allies in Bihar.

This was not the first time that JD (U) has taken an independent stand on an important issue. In 2012, while it was part of NDA, the party had supported UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee, in the then Presidential election.

But the President poll is not the only issue on which GA partners have been split. More bitterness crept into their relations after the CBI filed FIRs against chief Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi, deputy CM, and raided premises associated with them on July 7.

Since then, JD (U) leaders have been demanding Tejashwi’s resignation, citing the Nitish government policy of ‘zero tolerance of corruption’. But the RJD has rejected the demand, leaving the matter for CM Kumar to take call on.

With the CM’s four-day ultimatum for Tejashwi to come clean on charges levelled by the CBI, ending on Saturday, some JD (U) legislators reached 1 Aney Marg, official residence of CM, with the hope of being a party to a final call on Tejashwi’s resignation.

Tejashwi, who spurned JD (U)’s overtures seeking his resignation to spare the government from embarrassment, had skipped a CM’s function on Saturday, raising the prospect of an imminent showdown.

JD (U) MLA Shyam Bahadur Singh said, “He must resign, even if it triggers the fall of the government. We are ready for mid-term polls.” Kavita Singh, another party MLA, nodded in agreement.

Industries minister Jay Kumar Singh, while coming out of the meeting, denied any discussion on the issue. “We have apprised the CM with our views on Tuesday itself. He has to take a decision,” he said, adding fuel to speculation that the JD (U) may wait for follow up action (on Lalu and family) by the investigating agencies.

Kumar, while addressing state executive meeting last Sunday, had asked puzzled party functionaries to leave the task of running the government to him and focus on strengthening the party at grass roots level.

The JD (U) is learnt to have deferred its much awaited national executive committee meeting, scheduled forJuly 23, to August 19.

All the 71 JD (U) MLAs and two independent legislators, representing Valmikinagar and Kanti assembly constituencies, attended the meeting on Sunday.

First Published: Jul 16, 2017 21:14 IST