The super-size political drama in Bihar is in its final stages - before lawmakers meet for the assembly session that starts Friday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will insist on the removal of his deputy, Tejashwi Yadav, said sources. They said the Chief Minister is determined to telegraph that he will not allow the image of his government to be stained by charges of corruption.
Tejashwi Yadav is 28 and the son of political veteran Lalu Yadav, whose party has the most lawmakers. Three weeks ago, father and son were charged with corruption by the CBI which deputed teams to raid their residence in Patna along with other properties owned by them. Lalu Yadav called a meeting of his party which agreed that Tejashwi's resignation at this stage would amount to capitulation to a wrathful centre that habitually uses the CBI to weaken political opponents.
Unmoved by this assessment, Nitish Kumar made it clear that he expects Tejashwi Yadav to resign as No 2 in the government within the next 72 hours. As a peace offering, the young politician met with the Chief Minister last week to present his defense in person. The meeting apparently failed to reassure Nitish Kumar, who then phoned Sonia Gandhi and sought an intervention. Mrs Gandhi's Congress party is the third member of the Bihar government, and after repeated attempts at a reconciliation, has allegedly given up on trying to build bridges between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav. Over the weekend, Nitish Kumar met in Delhi with her son, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Today, the Chief Minister and Sonia Gandhi were present at the oath-taking ceremony of Ram Nath Kovind as India's 14th President.
Nitish Kumar broke with an 18-party league that includes his two allies and announced he would support Ram Nath Kovind, who was rival BJP's candidate. His defection from the front of opposition parties that he helped assemble just two months ago was seen as a dead giveaway of his intent to log out of his current alliance in Bihar and boot up a new one - the BJP has already offered to provide him external support which means it would vote to keep him in office if needed.
Lalu Yadav is scheduled to leave Patna early tomorrow evening for Ranchi, where he is being tried for corruption in a case linked to his term as Bihar Chief Minister in the 1990s. Hours before that, he will meet with his 80 legislators to strategise over his son's political future - the party is expected to reassert that Tejashwi Yadav cannot resign of flimsy charges.
Auguring more ache for the alliance, the standard meeting of legislators from the three parties that is held before every assembly session has not been called.
In an interview to NDTV recently, Lalu Yadav said that though there is no reason for his son to quit, his priority will be to save the maha-gathbandhan or Grand Alliance. He will now have to choose between being an indulgent father and crafty statesman who knows that the collapse of the Bihar arrangement will considerably attenuate the mojo of the anti-BJP front that hopes to together tackle Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019.