Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav have called meetings of the party's lawmakers in Patna on Sunday, separately, to prep their lawmakers for Monday's presidential polls. But the two party bosses are also expected to speak their mind on the ongoing rift in the Bihar's ruling coalition over demands that Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi quit as Deputy Chief Minister.
- Tejashwi Yadav skipped Patna event where Nitish Kumar was there
- Nitish Kumar wants Sonia Gandhi to mediate rift: sources
- Lalu Yadav had refused to make son Tejashwi step down as Deputy CM
Lalu Prasad Yadav on Friday night, again refused to make his son step down just because the CBI had named him in a corruption case that the Rashtriya Janata Party leader insists is an outcome of the BJP's "vendetta politics". It is a stand that the senior Yadav had taken back in the 1990s when there was a chorus of demands for his resignation as chief minister. He was facing corruption charges in the fodder scam. Lalu Prasad Yadav did eventually step down in 1997 but only after a court ordered his arrest. Facing the prospect of jail, he installed wife Rabri Devi instead.
For now, he is applying the same principle to his son, Tejashwi Yadav.
Except that two decades later, his party isn't in power on its own but part of a "Grand Alliance" with the Janata Dal United and the Congress.
With Nitish Kumar at the head of the ruling coalition in 2017, the JD (U) has made it clear that there was no alternative to the Yadav family either convincing the public about Tejashwi's innocence or exiting the government.
But as Lalu Yadav digs in his heels, JD (U) sources told NDTV that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants Congress president Sonia Gandhi to try and mediate to resolve the impasse. The Congress' stated position, articulated by the party's Bihar chief Ashok Chaudhury, has been that it was the Chief Minister's prerogative to decide if the junior Yadav should be in the cabinet or not.
Over the week, JD (U) leaders such as KC Tyagi have told NDTV that the party hadn't set a deadline for the Deputy Chief Minister to quit but also hinted that the grand alliance didn't make sense if it cost the Nitish Kumar government its moral high ground.
But the two allies, on opposite sides of the divide over Tejashwi's future in the government, have tried to avoid joint appearances in public.
On Saturday, Tejashwi Yadav skipped an official event in Patna where he was to share the stage with the Chief Minister. Mr Yadav's nameplate on the dias was first covered with a cloth, apparently by Mr Kumar's party JD-U, and then finally removed.
Mr Kumar, who was sitting next to labour resources minister and RJD leader Vijay Prakash, subsequently swapped his seat with JD(U) minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh, who was sitting on his right. News agency Press Trust of India said this was seen as an attempt by the chief minister to maintain a distance from the RJD minister as well.