- Nitish Kumar's allies Lalu and Tejashwi Yadav accused of corruption
- Nitish Kumar advised by aides to end alliance, feel his image is at risk
- Tejashwi Yadav will not quit, says Lalu Yadav's party
Yesterday, Nitish Kumar who is Chief Minister, made it clear that he expects Lalu Yadav's son, Tejashwi Yadav, to quit the government. At 28, Tejashwi Yadav is the No 2 in the government - which makes it all the more problematic for him to be named in a mega corruption case by the CBI. "I didn't even have a moustache then," said Tejashwi Yadav today to reporters, referring to the provenance of the alleged corruption. He stressed "this alliance will not break."
That may turn out to be wishful thinking. Yesterday, Nitish Kumar addressed a large meeting of delegates from his party, the Janata Dal (United) or JD-U, and reiterated his "zero-tolerance to corruption" while also failing the defense offered by the Yadav family of the charges against them.
Top leaders of Lalu Yadav's party met last night with the 71-year-old and doubled down on the agreement that Tejashwi Yadav must not quit since there is no credible evidence against him so far. They also said Nitish Kumar's requirement of the Yadavs issuing a detailed rejoinder to the charges against them is impractical and offensive. Comparing the Chief Minister's calling of a point-by-point explanation of the charges filed by the CBI to a "kangaroo court", Lalu Yadav's supporters, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said "it would be like a pretend public hearing where you know it's just a formality for you to be heard before you are beaten to death."
Nitish Kumar is unlikely to be moved by that analogy. He has made it clear that to make things right, the Yadavs are obliged to yank Tejashwi from the government, sparing the Chief Minister the task of removing him.
At Nitish Kumar's party meeting yesterday, many leaders warned him that staying attached to Lalu Yadav at this time could irreversibly smear his image of "Sushasan babu" - a clean and efficient administrator whose three terms in Bihar have remained free of major corruption scandals. The Yadavs say that the CBI case against them is punishment by the centre for Lalu Yadav's continued criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; other opposition leaders have agreed with this assessment; Nitish Kumar has not once denounced the investigation or the raids.
The lone voice against divorcing Lalu Yadav was that of Vijendra Yadav who pointed out that PM Modi was the cause of Nitish Kumar truncating a 17-year partnership with the BJP in 2013. "Will you go back to that same Modi on whose name you ended the alliance?" he asked plaintively. This reportedly provoked talk of whether the PM, accused by critics of holding and acting on grudges, will make an exception with Nitish Kumar to bury bygones.
Over the last few months, the PM and Nitish Kumar have telegraphed their ability to work together anew. The Chief Minister stood staunchly behind the PM's sudden ban on high-denomination notes in November; months later, the PM praised Nitish Kumar's controversial alcohol ban in Bihar. The cooperation ascended last month to alpha-controversy with Nitish Kumar breaking with opposition parties to announce his support for the BJP's candidate for President of India.
Though Lalu Yadav, whose children are named in a retinue of corruption cases, would like the cover that being in power can offer while fighting their cases, Nitish Kumar seems set on punching out of the alliance - days not, not weeks, say sources close to him about the approaching lights off.
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