Patna: More than 24 hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided 16 premises linked to Bihar’s former chief ministers (CMs) Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi in a 2004-09 land-for-job scam case registered against the couple, their daughters Misha and Hema and 12 others, CM Nitish Kumar and his party Janata Dal (United) have been strangely mum unlike their ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has targeted the Yadavs.
The CBI searched multiple locations in Delhi and Bihar after initiating a preliminary inquiry on September 23, 2021, into the charges that several persons were appointed as substitutes to Group-D posts in exchange for seven land parcels in Patna acquired by Lalu’s family when he was the Railways minister. The substitutes were later regularised. According to the current circle rate, the total land is worth Rs 4.39 crore.
The silence of Kumar and JD(U) is being widely seen as his growing closeness with Lalu’s son and the Assembly’s Opposition leader Tejashwi, who was in London when the CBI raided the places, and his uncomfortable relationship with the BJP.
JD(U)’s most vocal spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, known for not missing a chance to attack the RJD, Lalu, Rabri and Tejashwi, has not said a word about the raids. In the last five years, Neeraj and other party spokespersons are reluctant to target the RJD for the first time.
Kumar surprised everyone when he visited Rabri’s official residence to attend an Iftar party in April. After a gap of four-and-a-half years, he was seen in the company of the Yadavs, particularly Tejashwi. He downplayed the meeting saying it was a social event, not political. Subsequently, Kumar met Tejashwi at another Iftar party organised by the JD(U) and escorted him to his car after it ended.
Last week, Kumar invited Tejashwi to his official residence and discussed the issue of a caste census in the state in an unusual closed-door meeting for nearly an hour ignoring the BJP’s strong reservations.
Sources within the JD(U) told Newsclick that party leaders were instructed to not say anything against the RJD in view of growing differences with the BJP and its increasing pressure politics to play the big brother in Bihar.
“It is true our leader Nitish Kumar has supported Tejashwi’s demand for a cast census in the state, which has created a big problem for the BJP. The JD-U has been favouring a caste census for years,” one party leader said.
Another JD(U) leader said that the party held a high-level meeting at Kuma’s residence on Friday evening in the wake of the CBI raids. “The meeting was held to ensure unanimous support of party MLAs, MPs and senior leaders if Nitish Kumar takes any decision.” According to sources, JD(U) national president Lalan Singh admitted after the meeting that the party is not running a smooth government in alliance with the BJP.
Speculation is rife that Kumar may take a sudden political decision based on his conscience. Last month, he surprised the BJP once again when he decided to continue as CM despite the saffron party’s increasing pressure on him to be the next vice-president.
According to Bihar political watcher Satyanarain Madan, the raids were conducted to send a message to Kumar. “Five years ago, when the CBI raided the residence of Lalu and Rabri and 12 other places over a case of alleged irregularities in awarding the tender for the maintenance of railway hotels, the BJP had demanded that Kumar end his party’s alliance with the RJD,” he told Newsclick.
“If the CBI raids five years ago were to force the image-conscious Kumar to break alliance with the RJD and it worked, the latest raids are to checkmate him in joining hands with the RJD as reports suggest,” Madan added.
Madan recalled that soon after the 2017 CBI raids, then BJP-state president Nityanand Rai claimed that politics in Bihar “will change”. “Rai was right. Kumar ended his alliance with the RJD and joined hands with the BJP and formed the government.”
Another political commentator said that the BJP is using the CBI to warn Kumar not to join hands with alleged corrupt RJD leaders and to maintain distance from them or face similar raids if he goes ahead.
Several senior RJD leaders also questioned the timing of the CBI raids and said that is the result of the BJP’s nervousness due to the closeness between Kumar and Tejashwi on a caste census. The raids are part of revenge politics and to trouble Lalu, who was granted bail recently, they added.