Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has maintained a silence over the chargesheet against his deputy and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav in the land-for-jobs scam case. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chargesheet, which came last week on 4 July, also names Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi.
The alleged land-for-jobs scam pertains to corruption and bribery between 2004-2009 when Lalu Yadav was the Union Railways Minister and Kumar’s silence is raising questions on his claim of zero tolerance against the 3Cs — corruption, crime, and communalism.
More so, because it is a far cry from 2017 when he snapped ties with the RJD over Tejashwi being named as an accused in the IRCTC hotel sale scam. Back then, he walked back to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), bringing the grand alliance government down and reinstating the National Democratic Alliance in the state. Similar cases of Kumar demonstrating his zero tolerance towards corruption mark his multiple tenures as the CM.
But leaders of the Janata Dal (United) are toeing Kumar’s line and say there are no plans to seek Tejashwi’s resignation this time. “Absolutely not. The charge-sheeting of Tejashwi Yadav is a trap. We are not going to fall in the trap this time. The chargesheet is aimed at upsetting the bid of the Opposition to oust (PM Narendra) Modi from power in 20224,” said JD(U) national president Lallan Singh to ThePrint.
Party leaders maintain that while the land-for-jobs scam was brought to light by JD(U) president Lallan Singh and RJD vice-president Shivanand Tiwari, the CBI began investigating it only after the JD(U) broke its alliance with the BJP in August 2022.
However, another JD(U) leader conceded on the condition of anonymity: “His silence on Tejashwi Yadav is against his nature. It has tarnished his image as a man who does not compromise on the 3Cs.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition might corner the government over the issue during the winter session of the assembly beginning 10 July. BJP spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel said to ThePrint, “Nitish Kumar is no longer the man he was in 2015, 2017 or even 2022. He has a political compulsion to remain silent.”
Back in 2005, JD(U) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi quit the Kumar government hours after taking oath. He had an investigation pending against him regarding recognition of private B.Ed colleges. The vigilance department later cleared his name and he was reinstated.
In 2008, JD(U) leader and Transport Minister Ramanand Prasad Singh quit because of a vigilance department case against him for the purchase of allegedly inferior quality material for a thermal power plant when he was its chief engineer in 1990.
In 2011, BJP minister in Kumar’s government, Ramadhar Singh had to quit when it was found that he had been declared an ‘absconder’ by a court in 1995. The case was related to an alleged communal speech he gave in Aurangabad. Despite Singh’s claim that he had obtained a bail in the case, he was forced to quit.
In 2020, newly appointed Education Minister Mewa Lal Choudhary three days after taking oath as a corruption case was pending against him. The case related to irregularities in appointments in Bihar Agriculture University when he was its vice-chancellor. Interestingly, it was then Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav who led the attack demanding his sacking.
In August 2022, Law Minister Kartik Singh of the RJD had to quit the ministry days after taking oath as he was facing a criminal case relating to kidnapping. Ironically, he was supposed to be in court the day of his swearing-in. A warrant of arrest was pending against him.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)