The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 18 , 2017

Kovind brings JDU close to BJP again

Patna, July 17: The JDU today looked more like the ally of the BJP it once was, coordinating with the party on the presidential polls and barely making eye-contact with the RJD which has dug in its heels on the clamour for the resignation of deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.

The RJD has so far rebuffed efforts by the Congress, the third partner in the Grand Alliance, to work out a rapprochement by convincing Lalu Prasad to agree to Tejashwi's exit.

Lalu, sources in the know said, has told the Congress to first get the resignation of its Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and then ask for Tejashwi's ouster.

The Himachal chief minister is facing a disproportionate assets case filed by the CBI and has been quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering case. "Yet the Congress does not think it appropriate to remove Virbhadra Singh. And they are asking us to sacrifice Tejashwi on the basis of an FIR in which the charges against the deputy CM are weak," said a senior RJD leader who spoke under the cover of anonymity.

Asked how the mediation efforts were progressing, state Congress chief and education minister Ashok Choudhary pointed towards the sky. "I am a believer in God," mused Choudhary, who has donned the hat of "chief mediator" and held several separate meetings with both chief minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu since communications have broken down between the two.

The tension spilled to the legislature today where MLAs voted for the next President. The offices of leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Prem Kumar and parliamentary affairs minister Srawan Kumar, located opposite each other on the second floor, were used by the BJP and JDU to monitor the voting by their MLAs. Both parties are backing the NDA's pick, former Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind, against the Opposition choice, Bihar ki beti Meira Kumar.

BJP and JDU legislators regularly trooped into each other's office to enquire about the progress of the poll, the bonhomie reminiscent of the heady days of the NDA regime. JDU and RJD MLAs, on the other hand, barely acknowledged each other and it was left to Congress's Choudhary to monitor the polling of RJD and Congress members.

Nitish did not come to the House, since as an MLC he is not entitled to cast his vote in the presidential poll. "Usually on such occasions he is always around to monitor the voting of his MLAs. But he skipped the occasion this time because he wanted to avoid the media and perhaps RJD leaders," said a JDU MLA.

Tejashwi, who cast his vote after his brother Tej Pratap around 1pm, lost his cool when confronted with questions from reporters on his resignation outside the House. "The issue is only in the mind of the media," he said.

The barbs meanwhile continued to fly. JDU chief general secretary K.C. Tyagi said Tejashwi would have to give an explanation to the chief minister and satisfy him that he was innocent. Tyagi said the JDU had not asked for the resignation of Tejashwi, but he was "acting like a guilty person".

JDU sources indicated that Nitish was adamant that he will talk to the RJD only after Tejashwi submits his resignation. "We are not obliged to follow the benchmark of other political parties. There is an example in West Bengal where minister Madan Mitra was allowed to remain in the cabinet despite being jailed. Does anyone expect Nitish Kumar to follow that as an example?" asked a senior JDU leader.

Neither side wants to be seen as the one to have split the alliance. "RJD men complain about Nitish remaining silent on the CBI raid on Lalu's house. But it is Tejashwi who should have come to Nitish and sought his advice. It does not mean Nitish would have let him go. But he would have tutored Tejashwi about public propriety," said a JDU minister, hinting that the RJD wants Nitish to wait for Tejashwi's resignation until August 27, when Lalu will hold its BJP Bhagao rally at Gandhi Maidan.

"We cannot afford to wait for such a long period. The monsoon session of the legislature begins from July 28. We cannot afford to face the House in this state," insisted the JDU leader.

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