The RJD, whose leader Lalu Prasad could be the first sitting MP to lose his seat if the government withdraws the ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers, reacted to Rahul Gandhi’s extraordinary intervention with bitterness, and warned the Congress that Nitish Kumar — the obvious beneficiary if the Congress-RJD understanding ends — was secular only “on the surface”.
The Bihar chief minister, on the other hand, declared that “what Rahul Gandhi has said is right”.
Senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who is believed to be close to Lalu, told The Indian Express: “I wonder if Rahul was unaware of the plications of this ordinance when the government readied it. His volte face only creates the bad impression that there is a gap between Rahul Gandhi and the government.”
Asked if Rahul seemed to be picking Nitish over Lalu, Siddiqui said: “It is up to the Congress to decide if it wants a truly secular leader or one who keeps dilly-dallying and is secular only on the surface. The RJD is clear in its mind over seeking an alliance partner.”
Siddiqui added that now that the Raghuram Rajan report had put Bihar in the “bottom two states”, Rahul should be aware of the “reality of (Nitish’s) Bihar growth model”.
Buxar MP Jagadanand Singh — one of the RJD’s four members in Lok Sabha — said Lalu had the strength to go alone if needed.
“We are an independent party and have the strength to go to polls. Rahul’s changed stand on the ordinance does not worry us. People have been after Laluji since 1996, but nothing has happened. Finally, everything is decided in the court of the people.”
The JD(U) was clearly gleeful. Nitish said, “What Rahul Gandhi said is right. I have always been of the view that nobody should get a back-door entry. The subject matter of the ordinance should’ve been debated in Parliament.”
JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP and national spokesperson K C Tyagi said the ordinance criticised by Rahul was actually the Congress’s “return gift” to the RJD for doing it a favour in Jharkhand.
“It became possible only with our efforts.