- Nitish Kumar meets Rahul Gandhi in Delhi ahead of dinner hosted by PM
- Tells him deputy Tejashwi Yadav has to quit over corruption charges
- Bihar alliance in trouble amid corruption charges against the Yadavs
Lalu Yadav has rejected suggestions that his younger son, widely considered to have been the one chosen to be his political heir, should exit the government only because the CBI had named him in a corruption case. He insists that the junior Yadav was innocent and was being framed at the instance of the BJP that is in power at the Centre.
But leaders from Nitish Kumar's party, the Janata Dal (United) have made it clear that there wasn't much of an option for the Yadav family, underlining that the grand alliance would be meaningless if the government lost its moral high ground. Nitish Kumar has earned the reputation of a clean and efficient administrator whose three terms in Bihar have remained free of major corruption scandals.
The CBI case accuses Lalu Yadav of corruption during his term as Union Railways Minister to acquire a sweetheart deal for three acres of land in Patna that is now jointly owned by Tejashwi Yadav, his mother and his siblings. The plot, now worth more than over 90 crores, was not disclosed as an asset by Tejashwi Yadav before his election to the Bihar legislature.
Chief Minister Kumar is learnt to have stressed at the 40-minute-long one-on-one meeting that Tejashwi Yadav's continuation would not be in the larger interest of the alliance and will unnecessarily give the opposition a handle to smear the alliance government.
There was no immediate confirmation on the Congress Vice President's stand. According to a report, Mr Gandhi had tasked a senior party leader to talk to Lalu Yadav. But Congress leaders have been uncomfortable at the increasing frequency of issues on which they find Nitish Kumar siding with the BJP than his teammates in the opposition.
The last one was the presidential election. Nitish Kumar broke ranks with the opposition to back Ram Nath Kovind, former Bihar Governor.
His party has supported the opposition's vice presidential candidate Gopalkrishna Gandhi, but Nitish Kumar had skipped an opposition meeting held for this in Delhi, sending his senior colleague Sharad Yadav instead.
That the long overdue meeting with Rahul Gandhi happened during Mr Kumar's visit to the national capital to attend a farewell dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for President Pranab Mukherjee also did not go unnoticed. Mr Kumar has a standing offer of support from the BJP back home should he decide to walk out of the grand alliance.
Lalu Yadav has told ndtv.com that Tejashwi Yadav wouldn't quit but added that if the government's future depends on it, he could ensure his son exits. At one point, he did contemplate pulling all 12 ministers including Tejashwi and his elder brother Tej Pratap from the government and support the Nitish Kumar government from outside.