Patna: Two month after Nitish Kumar abandoned his partnership with Lalu Yadav, there's no mellowing of hard feelings. "Just remember a kaffan (coffin) has no pockets," Nitish Kumar said to a meeting of his party leaders, referring to the robust pack of corruption cases against his former ally. "If you keep collecting property, you will land in trouble," Mr Kumar said, employing wordplay to summarize the allegations that Lalu, 69, traded favours as Railways Minister to accumulate valuable real estate for his children from grateful companies.
In 2015, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav abandoned years of rivalry as the two main power players in Bihar to work together. The Congress, which was key in forging their truce, became their third ally. The Maha-Gathbandhan (Grand Alliance) succeeded in defeating the BJP in the election for Bihar, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his party's campaign.
After the PM won an outsized victory for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in March, opposition parties began exploring the conceit that the only way to prevent Mr Modi from re-election in 2019, given his blockbuster approval ratings. The Maha-Gathbandhan became their prototype as they formed a loose arrangement of about 18 parties. Central to this formation were Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, who urged the Congress to take on the anchoring role of the anti-BJP league.
Then, in July, the CBI raided Lalu Yadav's homes and offices in Patna and named him and his son, Tejashwi Yadav, in a new corruption case. The agency said that as Railways Minister, Lalu Yadav had assigned the lease for two hotels to a private firm that rewarded him with a three-acre plot of land in Patna that was routed through a maze of shell firms to Tejashwi Yadav. At 26, Tejashwai Yadav was Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister. Nitish Kumar, long believed to be tiring of the Yadavs and their alleged links to different swindles, found his out. He cancelled the Maha-Gathbandhan and promptly configured a new government with the BJP. It was clear from how quickly and seamlessly the transition was made that this was a political heist that had been carefully planned.
Lalu Yadav and the Congress, abruptly dumped, accused Nitish Kumar of blatant opportunism and political promiscuity. The anti-BJP front he had helped engineer lost much of its bite with his exit. Unshaken by the criticism, the Chief Minister said he could not live with corruption within his administration.
Lalu Yadav had been asked to meet with the CBI in Delhi yesterday to explain the charges against him in the hotels-for-land case. His lawyer said the politician needs another two weeks because he's not prepared.