Performance of alliance collective responsibility: CM Nitish Kumar amid Bihar unease
Apparent cracks have appeared in the Bihar grand alliance comprising the JD(U), RJD and the Congress following corruption allegations againstUpdated: Jul 25, 2017 23:18 IST
With the monsoon session of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha starting July 28 and the turmoil within the Grand Alliance (GA) continuing, chief minister Nitish Kumar seems to be playing his cards close to his chest, even as his party men continue to mount pressure on an unrelenting RJD for the resignation of deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad, named in a land graft case by the CBI.
On Tuesday, the chief minister broke his silence for the first time in Delhi, but only to throw a poser about the fate of the alliance.
“It is for all to see how the alliance is performing. It is a collective responsibility,” he told TV channels.
This sparked off speculations that Kumar could repeat a June 2013 in July 2017, when he had severed relations with the NDA in a surprise move. Will he take a ‘tough call’ on sacking his deputy Tejaswhi? Will it lead to strong reaction from the RJD? On Wednesday, the cabinet meeting is also scheduled and its ‘outcome’ and Tejashwi’s participation will be a keenly watched affair.
“You will have to wait and see. It is not going to continue like this forever. They say, they will come clean on August 27. That’s a long way off,” said JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.
There were speculations that the make or break move by way of Tejashwi’s climbdown, or Nitish’s final move would have to come before July 28. The fear is, if it does not, the monsoon session of the state legislature may turn out to be of BJP’s advantage and a chance to it to smear the alliance and attack Nitish Kumar, who will have Tejaswhi sitting next to him in the House. Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has already said the BJP would not allow the House to run should Tejashwi be there.
So far, Kumar has preferred speaking more in action and less in words. According to party sources, Kumar is in no hurry, as he does not want to take the blame for the disintegration of Bihar’s successful alliance experiment. But at the same time, he wants to keep his uncompromising stance on corruption intact.
“The RJD will have to take a call sooner or later if it wants to save the alliance. Today, Tejaswhi has been booked in a land graft case. The CBI chargesheet may come any day, leaving the RJD with a Hobson’s choice. One thing is clear that Nitish Kumar cannot compromise with his image he has so assiduously built,” party sources said. Even Brishin Patel, once in the JD(U) and now in the Hindustani Awam Morcha of Jitan Ram Manjhi, agreed.
Kumar’s silence has given indications that he is treading cautiously and might have multiple options up his sleeves in the runup to the 2019 general elections. Whether going back to the NDA fold is an option, only time will tell, for the Congress is also under compulsion not to let the sole successful alliance wither much before the crucial electoral battle two years later.
On the other hand, the BJP in Bihar has been quite straightforward in extending a standing offer of support to Kumar, should he withdraw from the GA. The BJP man who launched a campaign against RJD chief Lalu Prasad with a series of graft allegations, Sushil Kumar Modi, has also been soft on Kumar of late, lending credence to speculations that something might be cooking.
“Even during his last meeting with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Kumar made it clear that the fight against Narendra Modi-led BJP could not be fought without a clear stand on corruption and that the resignation of Tejashwi was unavoidable to save the alliance,” said a senior party leader, adding the Congress also needed to come clean on its stand on corruption, as its state leaders had sided with the RJD in the ongoing tussle.
For the Congress, it is a big dilemma, as it wants to save the alliance, while on the other hand it is itself continuing with a tainted CM in Himachal Pradesh.
“Even in Congress, leaders understand that Nitish Kumar is a leader they will not like to part ways with and top aides have been reportedly asked to convince Lalu Prasad for Tejashwi’s resignation without offending a trusted ally like the RJD,” he added.