New Delhi: Trouble in the coalition heaven called Bihar Mahagathbandhan began two months ago when Lalu Prasad Yadav went around meeting a few top BJP leaders in New Delhi, forcing Nitish Kumar to start thinking of a split.
“Lalu was okay with him going back to jail. What he was afraid was his two sons getting chargesheeted for corruption, both of whom started their political careers only in the last state Assembly election,” a top source close to the developments told News18.
Another leader who is considered part of Nitish’s core team said that the CM tried to quietly carry on with the alliance even when the Supreme Court reopened the corruption cases against Lalu, but the RJD supremo’s efforts to strike a personal rapprochement with BJP was the last nail in the coalition coffin.
“Trouble started when Lalu and his close aide and RJP MP Prem Chand Gupta met a few leaders in the Modi government. Mostly, Gupta met the BJP leaders, but then there were times when Lalu went along. The effort was to strike a deal wherein various investigations against Lalu’s family would be taken off, even if it came at the cost of Bihar government. Lalu was so desperate that he was ready to backstab Nitish Kumar,” said the source quoted in the beginning of this report.
Nitish, his loyalists affirm, is now only waiting for an opportune time to quit the grand alliance that had come together so dramatically in 2015 to defeat BJP in the assembly polls. His support for NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind is the first step in this direction.
“It is a separate issue that BJP showed no interest in Lalu’s proposal. Had he been successful, Nitish would have lost not only his Mr Clean image but also his political power,” said another source. In Bihar’s 243-member Assembly, JDU has only 71 seats. Lalu’s RJD has 80, while the BJP has 53 seats.
Sources say Lalu was hoping to cash in on the fact that Nitish had ended his 17-year-long alliance with the BJP before 2014 Lok Sabha polls, protesting projection of Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate. But as it turned out, BJP was not interested in Lalu’s offer as it didn’t see any political dividends in aligning with a scam-tainted politician.
And somewhere both Nitish and Lalu failed in developing trust factor despite the successful election alliance after two decades-long rivalry in Bihar.
“They weren’t on good terms before the alliance. It would have been a win-win situation for Lalu had his secret meetings with the BJP succeeded. There was no way out for Nitish,” sources said.
On benami property related cases against Tejashwi Yadav, deputy CM of Bihar, and his siblings, a close aide of Bihar CM said, “Agar koi JDU ka minister hota, Nitish uska resignation le liye hote (Had it been a minister from the JDU, Nitish Kumar would have sought his resignation by now).”
“Trust kya hai, Cabinet mein baithaye hain (Nitish trusted Tejashwi and made him a part of his Cabinet,” he said, adding that Nitish is aware of the fact that his personal image is at stake.
Public perception on Lalu Yadav is sinking and Nitish will never allow his goodwill as a clean politician, which he had built through lifelong work, to fall, he said.
“As of now, Bihar government is functioning mechanically. It may fall in 10 days or 10 weeks… it’s only a matter of time. Only thing that remains to be seen is, what will be the trigger,” said another source.