Principles Trump Power: Nitish Kumar's Message For Lalu Yadav Today

Nitish Kumar has so far maintained his silence on the corruption cases filed against his Bihar ally Lalu Yadav and his family.

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Principles Trump Power: Nitish Kumar's Message For Lalu Yadav Today

Nitish Kumar has not yet come out in support of Lalu Yadav over the barrage of corruption cases.

Patna: 

Highlights

  1. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to meet his party tomorrow
  2. Will make first comments on recent raids on ally Lalu Yadav
  3. Cannot compromise integrity for power, he will stress, claim sources
Nitish Kumar will at 1 pm today deliver a speech that could redefine the anatomy of his government in Bihar. For the first time, the Chief Minister, age 66, will comment on the raids against his political partner (and neighbour) Lalu Yadav, whose son, Tejashwi Yadav, is the second lead in the government and has been accused of corruption by the CBI.

At a meeting of hundreds of delegates including MPs and state legislators from his party, the Janata Dal (United), Nitish Kumar will declare that siddhant (ideology) trumps satta (power), and that there can be no compromise of integrity, said sources who asked not to be named. That is about the extent of the reprimand that he will indirectly serve to Lalu Yadav, whose party has the maximum seats in the legislature. 

His speech in Patna may also include a remonstration, directed at the central government, for "planted reports" in the media that said the Chief Minister's office had been given advance warning of the raids that took place on Friday at different properties owned by Lalu Yadav including his Patna home.

Nitish Kumar, like Lalu Yadav, is expected to proclaim that attempts to damage their "Grand Alliance" in Bihar - the Congress is a junior and third partner - will not land.

But Nitish Kumar is also unwilling to risk his reputation as an honest administrator untainted by corruption scandals during his 12 years in power as Bihar Chief Minister. So the warning that "the comforts of power" cannot dictate governance or motivate corruption is likely to be made a few times in his speech.

Lalu Yadav's party met on Monday and unequivocally declared that Tejashwi Yadav, 27, will not resign. It's now up to Nitish Kumar to decide whether to sign off on that decision. Sources told NDTV this morning that he is displeased with Tejashwi Yadav announcing on Friday - right after the raids on his family - that he does not plan to quit. As the Chief Minister and the leader of the alliance, Nitish Kumar believes that call rests entirely with him.
 
nitish kumar sushil modi and tejashwi yadav pti

Tejashwi Yadav (left) will not resign as Nitish Kumar's deputy, his party has decided.

The Yadavs in the last two months have been named in a gaggle of corruption cases that accuse Lalu Yadav of using his earlier office as Railways Minister to help his children to an impressive collection of real estate in cities ranging from Patna to Delhi. The case in which he was raided on Friday says that he ensured a lucrative contract to run two railways-owned hotels was granted to a firm that thanked him by routing three acres in Patna through proxy owners to his children, including Tejashwi Yadav. Though he is listed among the owners of the land, he did not disclose the asset as required by law when he contested the Bihar election in 2015. The land was being developed as Bihar's largest mall by a legislator who is from Lalu Yadav's party till the centre ordered a halt to the construction a few weeks ago.

So far, the CBI has filed a case or FIR against Tejashwi Yadav. Turning that into a chargesheet that details charges and outlines evidence for a court is likely to take months. The Deputy Chief Minister's party says it would be unfair to remove him till that happens. An FIR or case, they say, can be filed against anyone without any real evidence.

The provocation in the shape of the corruption case comes at a time when the Grand Alliance in Bihar has taken a beating over the election for President of India. Nitish Kumar has opted to vote in favour of the BJP - and against the Congress, Lalu Yadav and 15 other opposition parties whose daisy chain he propagated in April. His siding with the centre drew angry comments from his partners; he responded equally aggressively, stating that a union of parties without any clear strategy or blueprint is doomed to fail against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019.

Today, the opposition bloc has called a summit in Delhi to vet candidates for Vice President. Nitish Kumar has chosen not to attend, though Sharad Yadav will represent their party at the meeting.

"Nothing can stop this front," Sharad Yadav said of the opposition league, offering the reassurance that Nitish Kumar is not politically peripatetic. But with Lalu Yadav and his son threatening to turn into an ankle weight, Nitish Kumar's commitment to his current alliance may be more form than substance.

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