- Nitish Kumar phoned RJD founder Lalu Yadav to check on his health
- Tejashwi Yadav said he called after 4 months of father's hospitalisation
- Also said, there is no possibility of a tie-up with Nitish Kumar's JDU
Tejashwi Yadav on Tuesday confirmed that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had phoned his father and Rashtriya Janata Dal founder Lalu Yadav in hospital and insisted it was just the courtesy call before he strongly discouraged the possibility of his party opening the doors again to Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United.
The phone call, which comes amid a strain in ties between Nitish Kumar's party Janata Dal United, or JDU, and the BJP, had ballooned into speculation in Bihar that Mr Kumar could be weighing his options outside the NDA, the BJP-led alliance that he joined last year after dumping Lalu Yadav and the Congress. Both parties had then blamed Mr Kumar of opportunism.
"Nothing but a late courtesy call to enquire about his health as he underwent fistula operation on Sunday," Mr Yadav tweeted about the phone call from the Chief Minister.
"Surprisingly Nitish Ji got to know about his ill health after 4 months of hospitalisation. I hope he realises he being the last politician to enquire following BJP/NDA Ministers visiting him in hospital," Mr Yadav said.
Lalu Yadav, who has been sentenced 14 years in the fodder scam and is out on bail, received the phone call on Sunday soon after he was wheeled out of the operation theatre at Mumbai's Asian Heart Institute.
Tejashwi Yadav's party thinks the belated courtesy call could have something to do with Mr Kumar's troubles in his new alliance.
Mr Yadav told reporters that Mr Kumar did appear to be in the process of making up his mind for yet another turnaround. " (But) There is no guarantee that if we, speaking hypothetically, agree to yet another tie-up, he would not ditch us some time later. The door is now closed," Mr Yadav said.
For weeks, the JDU has been sparring with the BJP for primacy in the campaign and tickets for next year's general elections. The back-and-forth between the JDU and BJP is increasingly turning shrill and both sides are talking about their preparedness to contest the Lok Sabha election on their own.
JDU leaders have told NDTV that the BJP seems to be hoping for a repeat of the triangular contest that Bihar witnessed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The JDU wasn't part of the alliance with the RJD or the BJP-led NDA which ended up with 29 seats.
In 2015, however, 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 Grand Alliance succeeded in defeating the BJP in the election for Bihar.
Tejashwi Yadav was given top billing in the government because his father's party had the maximum seats in the Bihar legislature. But after the Yadavs were named in a corruption case by the CBI, Nitish Kumar divorced the RJD-Congress combine, trading them in for the BJP.
It is a decision that the junior Yadav hasn't forgiven Mr Kumar for.
Mr Kumar had cited corruption cases filed against Tejashwi Yadav by central agencies as one of the key reasons for his exit from the Grand Alliance. The 28-year-old, who is running the RJD in his father's absence, brushed aside Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil's remarks that seemed to suggest his party was leaving its options open, saying he was in touch with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and knew better.
"Moreover, it should be remembered that when Mr Gandhi and I recently met on lunch, JDU spokespersons called us names and accused both of us being corrupt. I wonder if the Congress would ever forgive the JDU, of which Nitish Kumar is the national president, for that," he said.
Tejashwi Yadav's stinging barbs aside, RJD leaders say this isn't the first time that Nitish Kumar had inquired about Lalu Yadav's health.
Shivanand Tiwari, the RJD's senior vice president, confirmed that Mr Kumar had inquired about Lalu Yadav's health earlier too.
When Lalu Yadav was abruptly discharged from AIIMS in Delhi and sent back to jail in Ranchi last month, a BJP leader said Nitish Kumar felt it was avoidable move and had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against sending him to jail when the 70-year-old was unwell. The RJD boss was released on bail soon after by a court in light of his medical condition.