The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on Monday attempted to sway the people's conscience by demanding the resignation of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on moral grounds. They argued that since his name appeared on the accused list of a 1991 murder case, he was not fit to rule.
But it seems that the attempt failed to have the desired effect strike because of the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led outfit's own moral mooring. Rather, the show came across as the RJD's desperate attempt to compensate for the political loss it suffered after the Janata Dal (United) snapped ties with it to form a government with BJP in the state.
The RJD's demand is based on dodgy moral principles – that since the chief minister is the head of a state, he should be seen as a person with a pristine image. It is certainly a desired condition for democracy to thrive and evolve freely. But then moral principles are not laws. Rather these are some unwritten, traditional axioms which everyone is expected to follow.
The effectiveness of morality depends on the one preaching it. A person who himself is involved in immoral activities can hardly be an effective moral preacher. He is more likely to become a laughing stock if he attempts to do so.
May be this was the reason why Lalu, who himself is named in the fodder scam, preferred not to make the demand for Nitish's ouster himself and instead fielded a senior RJD leader, Jagadanand Singh, to do it for him.
Jagadanand too, however, failed to strike any chord with the rational mind. For as a long-time ally of Lalu, he is equally discredited.
Nitish's resignation, that came after allegations of graft were levelled against his deputy and Lalu's son Tejashwi Yadav, dealt a big political blow to RJD. At the time of resigning, Nitish had said: "The corruption allegations have been too much. I have quit in the interest of Bihar."
RJD's frustration of losing power was evident from Jagadananda's press meet. He said that Nitish had no moral right to remain in the chief minister's position as he was accused in the Sitaram Singh murder case. He also showed a video of the victim's family to media persons, in which they were seen demanding justice.
"Nitish has been holding the chief ministerial post since after the court took cognizance of the crime. A criminal must not be allowed to hold this position," he said.
Flashing some papers in a rather long press conference after Nitish's resignation, Lalu said, "Nitish knew that he is accused of section 302... one of India's chief ministers is accused in a murder and arms case."
He added, "This is the report card of our zero tolerance leader and my younger brother."
Sitaram was murdered in 1991 during the Barh Lok Sabha constituency by-poll. The 22-year-old was shot dead at a polling booth. Nitish was initially one of the accused in the case but his name was later dropped from the chargesheet by Bihar Police. Later, in 2009, a witness in the case challenged the dropping of Nitish's name in court, after which he along with another accused was summoned to the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court in Barh.
After Nitish was approached, the Patna High Court issued a stay order on the summon and the proceedings going on in the Barh court. The high court called for the papers of the case and it is presently being heard.
Despite this case, the RJD allied with JD(U) in 2015 to form the Grand Alliance for the Bihar Assembly election. And until Nitish's resignation, the case against him never became an issue between both the parties. It became one only after Nitish snapped ties with the RJD,
When reporters present at Jagadanand's press conference asked about this change in RJD's stand, he employed the grand old thumb rule of secularism, that has always been used in India to shove political hypocrisy under the carpet.
"We supported the Grand Alliance to prevent communal forces attaining power. But since Nitish has joined hands with communal forces now, we are taking up the issue again," he said.
His claim, however, had hardly any takers. For Jagadanand, despite being a senior leader, had never appeared as the voice of conscience of the RJD. He never protested when Lalu clung to the chief minister's chair for months even after the CBI sought permission from the governor to prosecute him in the year 1997. He kept silent when Lalu recruited wife Rabri Devi as the 'surrogate' chief minister while he was in Jail. But the same person now raking issues from a claimed high moral ground does not make any sense.
Is Jagadanand not practising selective morality by keeping mum in his master’s case and being vocal when it comes to Nitish?
Had the demand for Nitish's removal come from an individual or a group that had shown exemplary adherence to moral principles on public issues in the past, it might have caught attention. But coming from the RJD and its leaders, who themselves are trusted associates of the tainted Lalu, it defeats the purpose.
Updated Date: Aug 01, 2017 15:02 PM