As Confrontation With Lalu Yadav Grows, Team Nitish Conveys New Option

Nitish Kumar has offered zero support to ally Lalu Yadav over corruption allegations made against him and his family made by the CBI.

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As Confrontation With Lalu Yadav Grows, Team Nitish Conveys New Option

Ties between allies Nitish Kumar (left) and Lalu Yadav have hit unprecedented turbulence.

Patna: 

Highlights

  1. Lalu Yadav's son, Tejashwi, refuses to quit Bihar government
  2. He is accused of graft by the CBI; Nitish Kumar wants him to resign
  3. Nitish Kumar asks his other ally, Sonia Gandhi, to decide what next
The shape of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's government in Bihar will be determined by whether his 28-year-old deputy, Tejashwi Yadav, complies with broad hints to resign after being accused of corruption by the CBI. Today, the focus of political parties is on ensuring their lawmakers back their choice for President of India and do not vote for the other side in the election for the country's highest office. After that, sources said, the Congress will look at whether Tejashwi Yadav can be purged by Nitish Kumar or whether "coalition dharma" requires a voluntary opt-out by the young politician.

Bihar is run by three parties: Tejashwi Yadav's father, Lalu Yadav, brings the most lawmakers to the table; next is Nitish Kumar's party, the Janata Dal United or JDU; the Congress is the smallest player, but its chief, Sonia Gandhi, has been asked to mediate the current standoff, now nearly 10 days old. The Chief Minister is reportedly upset that Tejashwi Yadav has not sought a meeting with him to discuss the corruption case. The Congress, for its part, feels both sides are being obstinate. 

Auguring the scale of the crisis - and the difficulty of downgrading it - Nitish Kumar has cancelled a trip that was scheduled for this week to Delhi. Though the agenda was to meet his party's national executive, he was expected to meet on the sidelines with Sonia Gandhi to signal his commitment to exhausting all options before he ends the current alliance. Sharad Yadav, a senior leader from his party, met with Sonia Gandhi on the weekend; today, he tweeted, "Corruption is menace & stringent action should be taken but action needs to be taken against all and not against selected and in opposition." 
 
nitish kumar tejashwi yadav pti 650

Tejashwi Yadav has been put on notice by Nitish Kumar to explain corruption charges against him.

On July 7, Lalu Yadav's Patna home and other properties were raided by the CBI which says that he abused his earlier term as union Railways Minister to acquire valuable real estate at throwaway prices for his children including Tejashwi Yadav. While other opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi backed Lalu Yadav's contention of the case being an instrument of political vendetta by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, no such agreement came forth from Nitish Kumar, who said the Yadavs' defence was inadequate and implied that Tejashwi Yadav should resign.

The Yadavs and their party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD, have said it's unfair to expect a resignation based on accusations by the CBI. No evidence has been offered thus far, they claim, because the agency has not yet produced a chargesheet which would mean a case is filed in court. But Nitish Kumar says that his "zero-tolerance towards corruption" policy cannot be undermined. On Friday, his aides confirmed that he had phoned Sonia Gandhi to suggest she lead the negotiations for a resolution.

"There's no question of making any concession," said Sanjay Singh, a spokesperson for the Chief Minister's party, as the Congress' top leader in Bihar, Ashok Chaudhary, confabulated with both warring parties. 
 
nitish kumar sushil modi and tejashwi yadav pti

BJP, led by Sushil Modi (second from left) in Bihar, has offered support to Nitish Kumar if his ally RJD pulls out of the coalition.

Lalu Yadav, sources say, is contemplating pulling all 12 ministers, including Tejashwi and his older brother Tej Pratap from the government; however, he would, in that case, provide external support or vote with Nitish Kumar's JDU on policy issues and a trust vote for the Chief Minister. That would allow him to retain some authority while his children are being investigated for graft, and test Nitish Kumar's resistance to rival BJP, which in recent months stands considerably depleted.

Apart from enthusiastically espousing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's November decision to ban high-denomination notes, Nitish Kumar has chosen to back the BJP's candidate for President of India in today's election, which means he is voting against his allies who have put up their own nominee.

The BJP has abandoned any coyness and said that it is also ready with external support should Nitish Kumar cut short the run of his current arrangement. Sources close to him say he wants to convey that he gave his best to saving the alliance in Bihar before exiting it; sources in Lalu Yadav's party, on the other hand, say their boss will try to expose Nitish Kumar's anti-BJP credentials as feigned by refusing to cut off support to the Bihar government.

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