Emerging from his five-day-long ‘political hibernation’, former Janata Dal (United) chief and the party’s senior most Rajya Sabha member, Sharad Yadav, finally broke his silence on Monday over Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to purge his own Mahagathbandhan government last Thursday and then be sworn-in to office within 16 hours with the BJP as his ally.
Yadav confirmed speculations that he was not happy with Kumar’s decision to resign as chief minister of the 20-month-old JD (U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan government and stopped just shy of terming as blatant betrayal his decision to take the BJP’s support to return as the state’s top executive last Friday.
Speaking to media persons outside the Parliament on Monday, a visibly upset Yadav said: “Whatever happened is very unfortunate. The mandate by the people was not for this.”
Yadav had gone into a studied silence the moment Nitish Kumar announced his resignation last Thursday evening – a move that had left his alliance partners, RJD chief Lalu Yadav, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders stunned. It is widely believed that Kumar had not kept Sharad Yadav in the loop on his surprise move, putting him in an embarrassing position at a time when for Rajya Sabha MP was at the forefront of the Opposition’s effort to corner the Narendra Modi-led BJP government both inside and outside the Parliament.
RJD chief Lalu Yadav had earlier indicated that Sharad was sulking over Kumar’s decision. “He (Sharad) had called me after the trust vote on Friday and said that he wasn’t happy about what was happening… he even urged me to carry on my fight,” Lalu had told media persons, adding that he replied to the former JD (U) chief saying he should “join us and lead our fight against the BJP and its allies”.
Sharad’s silence in the days following Kumar’s high political drama was being attributed to two things. First, there were clear attempts by senior JD (U) leaders as well as the BJP to keep Sharad from speaking out against the Bihar chief minister and the grapevine was abuzz with speculation that he might be offered a key portfolio in the Narendra Modi government since his party could now join the NDA at the Centre too. Sharad’s meeting with union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Friday had further strengthened this rumour. Second, those who know Sharad well claim that he was weighing his options and didn’t want to openly confront Kumar, or resign from the JD (U), as this would mean that he would also lose his Rajya Sabha membership which still has three more years before it ends.