Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today tore into RJD boss Lalu Prasad, insisting continuing in the Grand Alliance would have amounted to “compromising with corruption”.
Having embraced the BJP after a four-year hiatus, Kumar claimed there would be “no challenge” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections.
He also said the proposal for a reunion had come from the “highest level” in the BJP which he accepted as “going got impossible” in the Grand Alliance due to accusations of corruption against his then deputy Tejashwi Yadav.
“There were corruption charges and cases were filed by the CBI (against Lalu Prasad and family). I had only told them to come out with proper answers. Instead, they made fun of me saying whether I was a CBI official or the police,” he told a press conference.
“Laluji did not give any clarification on corruption charges. How could I remain silent after having talked about zero tolerance to corruption? Now I have a feeling that they did not have a proper answer,” Kumar said.
Kumar, till recently seen as a potential challenger to Modi, said, “Nobody else (other than Modi) can occupy the PM’s post. Now nobody has the strength to beat rpt beat Modi.”
Asked about his future role in national politics, Kumar, also the JD(U) chief, said, “Ours is a small party which does not harbour big national aspirations.”
When asked about the possibility of JD(U) becoming part of NDA at the national level with ministers in the Modi government, Kumar said the JD(U) national executive will meet in Patna on August 19 and all such issues will be decided there.
He also hit back at RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for criticising him for forging an alliance with “communal” BJP.
“Making huge money hiding behind the shield of secularism …is this secularism? … I need no certificate of secularism from anybody,” he said, questioning Lalu’s secularist credentials.
Highlighting his own commitment to secularism, he said his government had given compensation to the victims of the Bhagalpur communal riots on par with those of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
On reports that senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav was upset over the party joining hands with BJP, he said, “It is not necessary that everybody always agrees on everything. One can have divergent views. The decision to break the Grand Alliance was taken by Bihar JD(U) at its executive meeting which I had to abide by.”
“JD(U) is registered with the Election Commission as a regional party in Bihar and hence going against the decision of the state party was not possible for me,” he said.
Kumar mocked at Rahul Gandhi for claiming that he had an inkling that Kumar would walk out of the coalition for the last three to four months. “Then why did he (Gandhi) meet me when I had gone to Delhi and sought his intervention…to ask RJD to come clean on the accusations.
“Congress did not act on time in Assam also when AGP had come on board. It cost us the Assam polls,” he said, adding “we can be a partner but not a camp follower.”
Even as Kumar defended his decision of aligning with the BJP, JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav had earlier in the day voiced his disapproval, saying the mandate in the 2015 Assembly polls was for the grand alliance. He termed the development “unpleasant” and “unfortunate”.
“The situation is very unpleasant to us… It is unfortunate that the coalition has been broken. People’s mandate was not for it. Bihar’s 11 crore people had endorsed our alliance,” Yadav told reporters outside Parliament.
The Rajya Sabha member has met a number of opposition leaders since Nitish Kumar walked out of the 3-party Grand Alliance, which also included the Congress, and joined the NDA camp.
In Lucknow, BJP chief Amit Shah dismissed allegations of his party engineering splits and defections in rival political organisations.
“In Bihar, we did not break any party. Nitish Kumar had tendered his resignation as he had decided that he will not put up with corruption. Should we have told him with a gun to his temple that stay in that alliance?,” Shah told a press conference.
Kumar also slammed Lalu over his claim that he made him the chief minister despite RJD having more MLAs.
“He (Lalu) arrogantly says that he made me the CM … The people of Bihar showed him his worth in 2010 (when RJD’s strength was reduced to 22),” he said.
Meanwhile, in a boost to the fledgling JD(U)-NDA alliance dispensation in Bihar, the Patna High Court today dismissed two PILs challenging the formation of a new government by Nitish Kumar, saying the court’s intervention was no longer required after the floor test in the state Assembly.
While one public interest litigation was filed by RJD MLAs Saroj Yadav and Chandan Verma, the other was by Jitendra Kumar, a Samajwadi Party member.
Kumar had comfortably won the confidence vote 131-108 on Friday.