The ongoing CBI raids on properties of RJD leaders has unearthed a lot of evidence proving the involvement of these leaders in the land-for-jobs scam during RJD supremo Lalu Yadav’s tenure as Railway Minister.
Till Wednesday (24 August) evening, the CBI raids at 25 different locations in Delhi, Gurugram and Bihar had over 200 land deeds, a lot of incriminating evidence and unaccounted-for jewellery.
While all this evidence negates the RJD’s allegations that the CBI raids were part of the BJP’s “vendetta politics”, the bigger issue is the tough spot it lands Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in.
Kumar is very conscious of his ‘clean’ image that he has assiduously cultivated over the past few decades. He has always been quick to dissociate himself from any person or development that threatened to tarnish this image.
That is why he broke away from the RJD in 2017. At that time, corruption charges were brought against Tejashwi Yadav, who was also the deputy CM then.
As the allegations of corruption and malfeasance against Yadav gained momentum, Kumar’s image started taking a beating and he started attracting flak for tolerating corruption.
He then asked his deputy to resign, and the latter’s refusal to do so led to the JD(U) quitting the mahagathbandhan at that time.
History seems to be repeating itself once again, and at a fast pace too. The CBI raids, and the unearthing of evidence against RJD leaders (including Tejashwi Yadav), comes even before the new government has had time to settle down.
There seems to be little doubt that gross irregularities were committed while recruiting people from Bihar in Group D posts in the Railways when Lalu Yadav was the Railway Minister from 2004 to 2009.
The CBI, say the agency’s top officers, have gathered clinching evidence to prove that Lalu Yadav and his family members benefited from the scam.
“All the evidence that we have collected so far will definitely stand up to judicial scrutiny. And we are sure of obtaining convictions from the courts,” a top CBI officer told Swarajya.
Once the CBI, based on the evidence it has so far unearthed, starts arresting RJD leaders for custodial interrogation, Nitish Kumar will find himself in a tough spot.
He will find it impossible to defend the Yadavs and will face tough questions over his association with them and the RJD. If he does stick his neck out and try to defend them, he risks losing credibility.
Kumar, who finds himself blindsided now by the CBI raids and the unearthing of evidence against his newfound friends (the Yadavs), has hinted that the raids were carried out at the behest of the BJP with whom he parted ways last month.
But this bogey of ‘vendetta politics’ will not be sustainable as evidence mounts against the Yadavs and other RJD leaders. And if the CBI arrests the Yadavs and the courts uphold the arrests and their incarceration, Kumar will no longer be able to cry wolf.
But then, he will also not be able to walk out of the mahagathbandhan like he did in 2017. That time, the BJP welcomed him back and allowed him to continue as the chief minister. The twice-ditched BJP will not be forgiving this time.
Thus, much as he may dislike continuing as part of the mahagathbandhan and much as he may want to dissociate himself from the RJD, Nitish Kumar will have to continue in the alliance.
Also, this is just the beginning of another sordid chapter for Bihar. The crime graph has already started shooting up, reviving memories of the jungle raaj days when the RJD was in power.
An assertive RJD--it is much stronger than the JD(U)--will push Nitish Kumar into a corner now. Like in the past, the Yadavs will also become pushy and domineering, and the JD(U)’s core support base will have to bear the brunt of such assertiveness.
That will lead to erosion of support for Kumar and his JD(U). It must be remembered that Kumar broke ranks with Lalu Yadav twice in the past precisely for these reasons: corruption and the hooliganism of the Yadav strongmen that targeted other OBCs and EBCs in the past.
Kumar, devoid of any choice now, will have to grin and bear it. He knows that this is his last innings as the chief minister of Bihar.
There is no way that the RJD will allow him to continue in the post if the mahagathbandhan wins the 2025 Assembly elections, assuming of course that the alliance lasts till then. The RJD will want Tejashwi Yadav in the chief minister’s chair.
But before that, the RJD has another ace up its sleeve. The party has already started projecting Kumar as a joint opposition candidate for the Prime Minister’s post. The RJD will, very smartly, step up its efforts in this regard as the 2024 Lok Sabha polls approach.
There is little doubt that as soon as it succeeds in positioning Kumar as the joint opposition candidate for the country’s top executive post, the RJD will also push him away from the chief minister’s chair and install Tejashwi Yadav in his place.
There is little doubt even among the strongest critics and opponents of the BJP that the saffron party will sweep the Lok Sabha polls once again in 2024. Kumar’s dream of becoming the PM will remain unfulfilled.
And he will fall by the wayside after that. Having lost the CM’s post to his deputy, and also failed in his bid to become the PM, Kumar will have to resign himself to his fate of fading into political oblivion. By that time, he will be 74--too old to attempt a fresh innings in politics.
Nitish Kumar will also have to watch his JD(U) shrinking in strength and becoming a footnote in Bihar’s history. An assertive RJD, which fully realises that Nitish Kumar has run out of options and cannot walk away from the mahagathbandhan now, will not be in a mood to humour him.
Nitish Kumar will try his best to crack down on corruption and crime to preserve his image. But he will be restrained from doing that by the RJD.
The land-for-job scam and the unearthing of evidence against Lalu Yadav and his family, as well as other RJD leaders, heralds just the beginning of tough times for Nitish Kumar.
He will have to face, and put up with a lot more as the RJD entrenches itself in power and Bihar returns to the jungle raaj days.
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