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Rahul meets Nitish to save alliance, but CM doesn’t relent on Tejashwi

NEW DELHI/PATNA: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday in what seemed a bid to save the ruling mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), floundering over JD(U)’s demand that Rjd Chief Lalu Prasad’s son and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav provide a credible explanation for the corruption charges he faces.

JD(U)’s stance has led to a crisis in the alliance with RJD refusing to respond to Nitish’s demand, claiming that the Yadav clan is being targeted by the Modi government out of political vendetta. RJD has ruled out Tejashwi’s resignation and the stalemate continues despite the deputy CM having had a one-on-one meeting with the Bihar chief minister.

Buffeted by conflicting pressures from allies RJD and JD(U), Congress is anxious to save the coalition given that Nitish Kumar has indicated his unwillingness to compromise with his “probity” plank. Till now, Congress has been seen as backing Prasad in the war of wits within the “grand alliance” but a dissolution of the coalition will be read as a serious setback to forging an anti-Modi front in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

There are fears that if the coalition collapses, rival BJP may get a chance to stage a comeback in the state where a joint “secular” opposition successfully shut it out of office over two years ago.

The loss of an ally will be particularly debilitating for Congress which has just been jolted by the desertion of Shankarsinh Vaghela, its tallest leader in Gujarat, just ahead of the state poll due later this year — a development that is a gain for BJP and a setback for Congress.

Tejashwi, along with mother Rabri Devi, has been named in a CBI FIR with regard to alleged corruption in railway hotel contracts involving transfer of prime property in Patna when Lalu was railway minister in UPA-I.

While Congress remained tight-lipped over discussions between Nitish and Rahul which lasted over 40 minutes at the latter’s residence, JD (U) sources said it was difficult for Nitish to resile from his position of “zero tolerance” on corruption. They said the CM is of the view that letting Tejashwi continue in the state government will cause him a serious loss of face and also point out that it was Rahul who had torn up the copy of an ordinance seen to have been devised to protect Lalu during UPA-II. The ordinance would have saved Lalu from being barred from electoral politics after his conviction in a corruption (fodder scam) case.

Sources pointed out that since retaining office, Kumar has sacked close aides like Jeetan Ram Manjhi, Avadhesh Kushwaha, R N Singh and Ramadhar Singh over various charges. The two leaders had discussed the issue earlier when Rahul telephoned the JD(U) chief to thank him for his support to opposition’s candidate Gopal Gandhi for the vice-president’s election.

With Bihar assembly slated to convene later this month and BJP set to raise Tejashwi’s case in the House, it is to be seen if Nitish will force the issue and seek a settlement in the coming days. Kumar attended the farewell dinner hosted by PM Modi for outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday. He is also slated to attend the swearing-in of President Ram Nath Kovind on July 25.

Kumar’s dinner diplomacy amid the ongoing political crisis in the state has set tongues wagging.

Though RJD chief Lalu Prasad told newsmen on Friday that Nitish should attend the dinner as it concerned the President, party insiders sniffed a political purpose in Nitish’s gesture.

Source : timesofindia



This post first appeared on Daily Kiran, please read the originial post: here

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Rahul meets Nitish to save alliance, but CM doesn’t relent on Tejashwi

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