Lalu more dependable ally in Bihar, feels Congress; but cannot ignore Nitish

Lalu more dependable ally in Bihar, feels Congress; but cannot ignore Nitish

Lalu more dependable ally in Bihar, feels Congress; but cannot ignore Nitish

Despite Rahul Gandhi's unease in dealing with Lalu Prasad, Congress leaders believe that the RJD is a more dependable ally than JD(U) in its ideological fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP.

As Lalu Prasad and his family members battle graft allegations, the Congress – a constituent in the Bihar government – is confident that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will not snap ties with the RJD and sacrifice the grand alliance that had stopped the Modi juggernaut in 2015.

Keen to replicate the grand alliance experiment at the national level, Congress leaders believe that the RJD supremo will do the heavy-lifting in getting on-board arch-rivals SP-BSP, which is crucial for the opposition group to stop the BJP in Uttar Pradesh that sends the most members – 80 – to the Lok Sabha. BJP and its allies won 73 seats in 2014.

After the CBI and ED raids on Lalu Prasad and his family members, the grand alliance in Bihar appeared to be on a shaky wicket as Nitish Kumar put ally RJD on notice to come clean of the graft allegations. Lalu's son Tejaswi Yadav, who is facing allegations of corruption, is the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi spoke separately with the Bihar Chief Minister as the central probe agencies stepped up investigation against Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and her husband Sushil.

Though the phone calls were meant to thank Nitish Kumar for his support to the Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the joint opposition nominee for the vice presidential election, the leaders also discussed the fate of the grand alliance in the state.

Nitish Kumar, who had proposed a grand alliance for the presidential election, had broken ranks with the opposition and announced support to Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, the BJP nominee for the top constitutional post.

He had accused the Congress of delaying the announcement of the joint opposition candidate and later forcing the candidature of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

Congress leaders here believe that the stand taken by Nitish Kumar was “merely posturing” to project to the electorate that he was different from his allies.

“Nitish is greatly conscious about his clean image and wants to protect it with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” a senior Congress leader said.

Nitish Kumar has rejected suggestions that he was harbouring prime ministerial ambitions in case of a fractured verdict in 2019.

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