Tejashwi Yadav skipped an event attended by Nitish Kumar; JD-U responded by covering his nameplate
Patna: In signs of a widening rift in Bihar's ruling coalition, Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav today skipped an official event in Patna where he was to share the stage with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. 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. The development has strengthened speculation that the crisis between the Nitish Kumar's party and the Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal has further deepened over allegations of corruption against the RJD chief and his family. The Chief Minister has indicated that he would prefer his deputy Tejashwi Yadav to exit the government if unable to present a rebuttal to the CBI's charges against him.
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Tejashwi Yadav, 28, has been named in a corruption case along with father Lalu Prasad Yadav. The case accuses Lalu Yadav of venality during his term as Railway Minister at the centre to acquire a sweetheart deal for three acres of land in Patna, jointly owned by Tejashwi, his mother Rabri Devi and his siblings. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last week raided the residence of Lalu, also named in the case, and other properties in five cities.
Lalu Yadav's party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal or RJD, has indicated that it is under no pressure as it has the most seats in the Bihar assembly - 80 of 234. "Tejashwi will not resign at any cost. The RJD has 80 legislators. We will do what we want," party leader Bhai Virender said in Patna.
Nitish Kumar's party retaliated by asking the RJD to shrug off the "arrogance". "The RJD, which is showing the arrogance of 80 MLAs, should not forget that it was reduced to 22 MLAs in 2010 state poll," said Sanjay Singh of the JD-U.
The JD-U has 71 MLAs and the third alliance partner Congress 27, while the BJP, which is the main opposition party in the House, has 53 legislators and has already volunteered external support - siding with Nitish Kumar in a vote to keep him in office - if Lalu Yadav's party RJD withdraws support.
Dismissing the charges against his son as "flimsy", Lalu Yadav told ndtv.com that his son's resignation will encourage the CBI and other agencies to frame other ministers. "It is the people of Bihar who voted for Tejashwi, and when our party has met and decided he should not resign, who are these people who have neither elected nor selected him to ask for his removal?" Mr Yadav has alleged that the CBI raids are blatant persecution by PM Narendra Modi of political opponents.
Sources in the RJD say that furious negotiations between their camp and that of the Chief Minister are underway to decide the modalities of Tejashwi Yadav's exit. What the Yadavs reportedly want is enough time for Tejashwi to present his case.
Any breakthrough, however, is likely to be about as effective as a Band-Aid for a gaping wound, said JD-U sources who believe the Chief Minister is determined that it is time to end his association with the Yadavs, whose increasing stack of corruption charges is turning into a multi-car pile-up.
Lalu Yadav was barred in 2013 from holding public office after he was convicted in another corruption case that goes back to the 90s when he was Bihar Chief Minister. His children are now ensnared in a number of cases that include alleged money-laundering.