Was it a coincidence that barely a day after Nitish Kumar said that the BJP leaders should get the charges against Lalu’s land deals probed by an appropriate investigating agency, the Income Tax authorities swooped down at RJD chief’s house in Delhi and Haryana?
While the political grapevine in Bihar was agog with rumours that Nitish may have given his clandestine approval for this action, and may be planning to shift his allegiance to his former alliance partner NDA, the fact remains that nothing of such political upheaval is in the offing here.
Raids Not Enough to Drive a Wedge in the Alliance
The reasons are one too many. Ever since the Grand Alliance stormed to power in November 2015, the BJP and the news-starved media (particularly the electronic channels) have been trying to sow the seeds of discontent between Nitish and Lalu Prasad, the two major allies in the Grand Alliance (in which Congress is also a junior partner).
But the two regional satraps have weathered many a storm showing immense political maturity.
Last week, it was the Supreme Court ruling in the fodder scam which spelt further trouble for Lalu. On Tuesday, it’s the Income Tax raids on Lalu and his aides’ premises to probe how he and his family, as alleged by BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, amassed huge immoveable property in the last one decade.
“The raids are part of the larger design hatched by BJP to stifle all those Opposition leaders who could pose a challenge to the saffron rise. The day Lalu announced that he would hold a massive rally in Patna on 27 August and bring Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mamata, CPM, CPI, DMK and Naveen Patnaik’s BJD on one platform, the BJP got jittery,” said RJD’s national vice-president and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. “The more the BJP attacks Lalu, the stronger he will emerge,” he added.
The JD(U) too scotched speculations that such raids would drive a wedge between two alliance partners Nitish and Lalu, which, in turn, could lead to the downfall of the Nitish Government.
“Contrary to media speculation, there is no threat to the Grand Alliance Government,” said JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh, a close associate of Nitish.
Nitish Unlikely to Drop Lalu
The Nitish regime in Bihar has the support of the single largest party RJD (80 MLAs), JD(U) (71) and Congress (27). The BJP has 53 legislators, while its alliance partner LJP (2), RLSP (2) and HAM (1) have poor representation in the 243-member Assembly.
Veteran Socialist leader Shivanand Tiwary, who was one of the petitioners in the fodder scam in mid-90’s, and had once been a JD(U) Rajya Sabha member before switching over his allegiance to Lalu, says:
Those who are under the impression that the fall of Nitish government is imminent are living in a fool’s paradise. When Nitish and Lalu joined hands in 2015 to fight a common foe Narendra Modi-led BJP, it was clear that Lalu was embroiled in fodder scam. So why so much of hue and cry over legal cases? Kuch log Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne dekh rahein hain ki yeh sarkar gir jaye. Their nefarious design won’t fructify.
While some may argue that Nitish has not been seen defending Lalu of late, but it’s equally true that Nitish needs Lalu’s support as much as Lalu needs the JD(U)’s crutches. After all, the RJD chief has to firmly establish his two sons (with the younger one Tejaswi his heir apparent).
Nitish, who was the dominant partner while in alliance with the BJP, has remained Chief Minister for more than a decade, either due to BJP’s vote base or Lalu’s mass base, is unlikely to dump Lalu midway. Precisely because it was Lalu who helped him in 2015 romp home in a decisive battle against his arch-rival Narendra Modi.
(The author is a Bihar-based journalist)
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