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Tejashwi Yadav may resign in Sonia Gandhi-brokered peace plan for Bihar’s warring allies

The tension between Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad was sparked by Central Bureau of Investigation raids last week on RJD chief’s residence and cases filed against him, Tejashwi and others in an alleged land-for-hotels scandal.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2017 00:10 IST
Nitish Kumar,Lalu Prasad Yadav,Tejashwi Yadav
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad would not want to break the Grand Alliance, which trounced the BJP in general elections two years ago, say experts.(PTI file photo)

Bihar’s deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav might step down over corruption allegations to save the ruling alliance, sources said on Friday in the first signs of a compromise after a bitter week-long standoff.

Sources in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said party chief Lalu Prasad didn’t want the Grand Alliance to disintegrate and may consider partner Janata Dal (United)’s demand for Tejashwi – who is facing graft charges – to quit.

Lalu returns to Patna from Ranchi – where he is appearing in a court on scam charges -- on Friday evening and will take a final decision after that, leaders said. Sonia Gandhi, president of the third Grand Alliance partner the Congress, is said to be brokering peace between the warring allies.

“The decision is unlikely to be announced before the presidential elections on Monday,” a senior RJD leader said.

The current crisis was sparked by Central Bureau of Investigation raids last week on Lalu’s residence and cases filed against him, Tejashwi and others in an alleged land-for-hotels scandal.

Since then, the two parties have directed barbs at each other, increasing pressure on chief minister Nitish Kumar to sack Tejashwi to protect an image of clean governance.

Friday saw the first climbdown in tensions as RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha asked parties ‘to maintain restrain’ when they spoke out against coalition partners.

The announcement came as the JD(U) rowed back on a four-day deadline it had earlier given to Tejashwi to dispel corruption charges against him.

JD(U) national general secretary KC Tyagi has dismissed the deadline and even senior leader Ramai Ram, who announced the four-day timeframe at a press conference on Tuesday, said he had been quoted out of context.

Hectic negotiations continued behind closed doors as sources indicated both parties readied alternative plans. A top RJD leader said if Tejashwi was compelled to resign, all 12 party ministers would quit -- a face-saver for the RJD that would also keep the Grand Alliance intact and counter the BJP.

Experts say neither the RJD nor the JD(U) want to break the Grand Alliance, which trounced the BJP in general elections two years ago and has appeared steady despite reports of differences between the partners. The Grand Alliance is seen as a pivot in the country’s anti-BJP formations and is expected to catapult Nitish Kumar to a national stage before the 2019 general elections. The RJD has 80 seats, the JD(U) 71, the Congress 27 and the NDA 58 in the 243-member assembly.

The BJP has enthusiastically monitored the spat and even offered outside support to the JD(U) but many say that Lalu’s mass base among Muslims and backward castes put him in an advantageous position. In an interview to the Hindu on Friday, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan advised Nitish Kumar to act quickly or risk a split in his party as Lalu commanded a bigger voter base.

First Published: Jul 14, 2017 16:47 IST