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How Lalu Prasad Yadav pushed Nitish Kumar to Narendra Modi-led NDA fold

New Delhi, July 27, 2017 - Nitish Kumar shared an uncomfortable relation with Lalu Prasad Yadav in the grand alliance. On many occasions, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav walked different paths in the alliance.

JD(U) president Nitish Kumar today took oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar for sixth time following a high-decibel political drama late evening yesterday.

Nitish Kumar resigned as the Chief Minister of the Mahagathbandhan government over corruption charges against his deputy and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's younger son Tejashwi Yadav.

Lalu Prasad Yadav has since launched scathing attacks on Nitish Kumar saying that he"trusted Nitish blindly but got betrayal in return". Lalu Prasad also dug out a murder case of 1991 in which Nitish Kumar had been made an accused. But, the trial in the case was stopped by a Bihar court, JD(U) explained accusing Lalu Prasad of giving selective and misleading information.

The JD(U) blamed Lalu Prasad for Nitish Kumar's decision to snap ties with the RJD and Congress in the arrangement called Mahagathbandhan or the Grand Alliance. The JD(U) may well be speaking the truth.

GRAND ALLIANCE AND ELECTION

The alliance had been forged in July 2014 ahead of election to Bihar Assembly and in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha polls which saw Narendra Modi wave sweeping north half of the country. In Bihar, the JD(U) had got only two seats while the NDA secured win in 28 of 40 parliamentary constituencies.

Prior to this, Nitish Kumar had sought fresh vote of confidence in the Bihar Assembly in June 2013 when it became apparent that Narendra Modi would be the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP and NDA. Nitish proved majority on the floor of the House with the help of the Congress while both the BJP and the RJD voted against him.

After his resignation in June 2014, Nitish Kumar made the first move to forge a united Opposition in Bihar. Nitish Kumar approached Lalu Prasad Yadav with the aim to fight the BJP-led NDA together in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election. Nitish already enjoyed support of the Congress, which had a working relation with the RJD at the Centre.

The Mahagathbandhan was announced on July 27, 2014. The grand alliance stopped Narendra Modi juggernaut in Bihar despite the BJP upping its vote share. But, Nitish's move to approach Lalu was to haunt the Bihar Chief Minister soon.

THE FIRST BLOW FROM LALU

A few weeks after the grand alliance secured majority in 2015 Assembly election, Lalu Prasad Yadav had publicly said that Nitish Kumar had fallen on his feet for stitching an alliance against the BJP.

At an election rally at Bhagalpur in Bihar on August 18, 2014 - less than a month after the grand alliance was announced, Lalu Prasad Yadav was reported to have said,"Nitish mere gor mein gir gaye toh kya hum unhe uthakar phenk dete (Nitish fell at my feet. Should I have thrown him out)?"
However, Lalu Prasad Yadav later denied having used the word 'gor' meaning feet. He said that he used 'god' meaning lap instead. The entire JD(U) was in furious with Lalu Prasad Yadav for using such language for Nitish Kumar, who, too, was reported very hurt.

Nitish Kumar is said to have conveyed his displeasure at the remarks made by Lalu Prasad Yadav through the then JD(U) president Sharad Yadav. Nitish Kumar had, in fact, warned Lalu Prasad Yadav against using such language again. Sharad Yadav reportedly conveyed the message to Lalu Prasad Yadav. The matter ended but wound remained fresh for Nitish Kumar.

ATTACKS ON NITISH BY RJD

There was dissension among the RJD leaders about Nitish Kumar being sworn in as the Chief Minister despite JD(U) being a junior partner in the alliance. The RJD leaders kept attacking Nitish Kumar even though Lalu Prasad Yadav himself refrained from making another controversial statement about the Bihar Chief Minister.

In January 2016, senior RJD leader and close confidante of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh hit out at Nitish Kumar for failing law and order in Bihar. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh publicly blamed Nitish Kumar for poor law and order in Bihar saying that"the home portfolio is with the Chief Minister".

Nitish Kumar expected a word from Lalu Prasad Yadav in his support and asking his party leaders not to target the Chief Minister. Nothing of that sort happened.

In September 2016, RJD leader Mohammad Shahabuddin came out of jail and within minutes took on Nitish Kumar. Responding to a question on Nitish Kumar, Shahabuddin said that"Lalu Prasad is my leader" claiming that the people of Bihar knew who they voted for. Shahabuddin called Nitish Kumar a"Chief Minister of circumstances".

Again, Nitish Kumar hoped that Lalu Prasad Yadav would condemn such remarks by his partymen. But, Lalu Prasad Yadav remained silent.

In between came reports that Lalu Prasad Yadav was directly talking to senior officials in Bihar. Lalu Prasad was also reported to have held meetings of senior officials at his residence on behalf of his son and the then Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.

Nitish had objected to this kind of 'interference' in government. But, many believe that Lalu Prasad still dialed senior officials of Bihar government and passed on instructions.

NITISH MODI-FIED

By August 2016, it had become clear that Nitish Kumar was not comfortable with Lalu Prasad Yadav in the grand alliance. In September, when the Indian Army conducted surgical strike in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Nitish Kumar came out in open support of the Narendra Modi government even though Opposition parties like the Congress and the AAP indirectly sought proof of the same.

In November 2016, Nitish Kumar broke ranks with the Opposition to support demonetisation calling it a good step against black money. Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly thanked Nitish Kumar for the support.

Two months later, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi shared dais in Patna at a function to mark 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh. Nitish and Modi showered lavish praise on each other and were seen sharing a few laughs together.

During the Presidential Election 2017 held on July 17, Nitish Kumar deserted the Opposition to back BJP candidate Ram Nath Kovind, who sworn in as President of India on July 25. All this while, the RJD and occasionally the Congress kept attacking Nitish Kumar, who had reportedly been conveying his anguish over the manner Lalu Prasad was treating him in the alliance.

TEJASHWI EPISODE

Having walked out of the NDA after 17 years as he did not want to be seen as the leader who approved of Narendra Modi's candidature for prime ministerial post, Nitish Kumar was said to have been reluctant to go back to the BJP camp once again.

When corruption charges were slapped against Tejashwi Yadav, Nitish wanted to salvage his image and wished his deputy should put in his papers. Nitish's image had already taken a beating in Bihar after his association with Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was convicted in a case of corruption.

Nitish Kumar saw a solution in the resignation of Tejashwi Yadav. But, Lalu Prasad Yadav made it clear that he would not agree to it. Nitish Kumar then conveyed that Tejashwi should give a public rebuttal of the charges slapped against him. Lalu Prasad and Tejashwi Yadav refused to do this. They only said that the BJP was misusing central agencies for political vendetta.

Nitish Kumar admitted that he raised the issue with the Congress leadership including party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi with the hope that a solution would be found. But, Lalu Prasad Yadav remained adamant.

Meanwhile, the BJP was ready to welcome Nitish Kumar back in its fold. Nitish Kumar's ghar wapasi in the NDA would only benefit the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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