Elections in Bihar had a huge turnaround. BJP had to face one of its first defeats after 2014. This was particularly a blow to Modi-Shah combine who had led BJP to its historic Lok Sabha win in 2014. Nevertheless, BJP bounced back and later on it has steered itself to victories in many other states and local bodies. Bihar loss however activated a near extinct political force in the state in form of the RJD. Appearing as a spent force, the dynamics of political mathematics made RJD as the single largest party in the elections.
RJD and JD(U) together have been ruling the state since the grand coalition was voted into power. The alliance however had its share of ups and downs. Nitish Kumar who fairly has a clean image had to work with a party whose founder was convicted for the fodder scam. And Kumar subtly has shown himself inching towards the BJP which has led many political pundits predict he will forge an alliance with the BJP.
There are three reasons as to why the alliance between JD (U) and the RJD will not surf through turbulent waters. Firstly the RJD applecart is filled with tainted individuals who Nitish Kumar may not be comfortable working with. May it be so in the Shahabuddin issue, the underlying fault line in the relations came out well in the open. Secondly, the ambition in the minds of the RJD to install one of Lalu’s sons as the CM is something that was postured quite openly in the public domain. This is seen as an encroachment in Kumar’s scheme of things and power. The third reason as to why Nitish Kumar may want to end the alliance is the indulgence of the RJD camp into too many scams.
The history of RJD politics is mired by the conviction of Lalu Yadav in the multi crore laced fodder scam. Following footsteps of his father, his son Tej Pratap Yadav was allegedly involved in the soil purchase scam. According to reports, soil from a property owned by the Yadavs was sold to the Patna zoo without following the due process of acquiring a tender. And before the RJD could steer itself out of the soil scam, the IT have attached assets in Misa Bharti benami land deal case.
The probe caters around Rs 1000 crores benami land deals and involves members of the Yadav family. Under the Benami Transactions Act, 1988 that came into force last year, a house and a land in Delhi have been attached. The action was carried out after raids and arrest of Chartered Accountant named Rajesh Agarwal (who has connections with the Yadav family) by the ED in May. Mr Agrawal was arrested under prevention of money laundering for facilitating illegal funds. The officials wanted to interrogate Misa Bharti and her husband relating to these transactions but both had given IT summons a miss. The political duo have connections with a firm called Mishail Packers and Printers Private Limited which is suspected to have entered into benami deals and is said to be now under an investigation. Misha Bharti has been asked to appear to give an explanation for the Benami dealings failing which IT department has the authorisation to start tax realisation and confiscation procedure. The properties are centred around Delhi and Patna and action was taken after raids at over 22 locations.
The biggest fallout of these investigations will be the provisions of the Benami transactions act.
According to the act, Misa Bharti can undergo punishment up to seven years in imprisonment. These investigations and the unearthing of benami transactions will cause a lot of effect politically.
Lalu Yadav may have been dreaming of handing over his political legacy to next generation of RJD leaders in the form of his sons and daughters. Unfortunately, these allegations have given them a wrong name and something like fodder scam which tainted his image as a socialist leader, his children are facing the same now at just the beginning of their political career.
Politically it also may cause a ripple effect as these allegations make it weak for the RJD to wrest power from Nitish Kumar as they are certainly eyeing the coveted CM’s chair. On the other hand, these details of transactions about soil scam or even the benami deals may have been the handiwork of Nitish Kumar itself. Nitish is keen on consolidating his position in the state which at the backdoor may have been slipping away from him especially at the back drop of RJD eyeing the CM position. The bonhomie between Kumar and BJP leader Sushil Modi is also quite well known.
Perhaps Nitish Kumar wants a robust reason to break his alliance with the RJD, these scams and the probe on Misa Bharti will provide him the elbow room to do the same.
Since numbers do not make Kumar a CM on its own, he will certainly have to come back to the BJP to form a govt in Patna.This in a way will generate cascading effect to help BJP get the state, the only state missing from its political kitty in the Hindi heartland. This also may also help lay a firm ground work for PM Modi as they eye 2019 Lok Sabha and the subsequent assembly elections.
RJD chief has retorted in a series of tweets that he will fight ‘fascist’ forces and has termed it as an act of political vendetta. Even if Misa Bharti and the whole Yadav family may try to play the victimization card, their history pertaining to scandals like the fodder scam speaks volumes of their capability to undergo financial misappropriation.
Nevertheless, these corruption charges are coming at a time when Presidential polls are in the horizon. The opposition needs to put a united front in case they have to take on the BJP and such scams do more harm than needful. Nitish Kumar is showing a bit of subtle closeness to the BJP camp and these scam charges may just reiterate his belief to break the alliance with the RJD in future. He has supported BJP’s President nominee. This comes after a vocal support for demonetization and Army chief.
In case of Mamata Banarjee (embroiled in financial scandals like Sharda chit fund scam) and Lalu Yadav, both have been a vocal critic of the Modi Govt. And both have positioned themselves for a national role in case any anti BJP alliance has to be forged. Emergence of scams with respect to these leaders have slightly blunted their juggernaut and will be a major hindrance to their many political ambitions not just at the national level but basically in their home states as well.