Goonda raj returns? Tejashwi Yadav's guards target scribes, revive dark memories of Lalu-Rabri days

Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav launched an onslaught against the media on Wednesday, calling them "disappointed BJP-minded goondas" who were out to break up the ruling grand coalition in Bihar.

Tejashwi has been in the limelight recently because of an array of corruption allegations levelled against him and his family and his involvement with shell companies and benami properties.

Within hours of Tejashwi's verbal attack, his men and personal security guards from Bihar Police thrashed media persons when they posed tough questions to the deputy chief minister.

File image of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav. PTI

File image of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav. PTI

The incident revives fears of the ill-famed goonda raj of the Lalu-Rabri regime, unleashed in the state for 15 years – from 1990 till 2005. Though JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar is now the chief minister, RJD remains the 'senior member' in the ruling RJD-JD(U)-Congress coalition.

What is especially worrisome for any ordinary citizen of Bihar is that Tejashwi's sarkari safari-suit clad goons beat up journalists in full public view, under the glare of several television cameras at the State Secretariat in Patna. The attackers clearly had no concerns about the public image of their leader Tejashwi and the entire Yadav clan, nor did they fear law or public outrage.

This essentially means that Tejashwi and his party men believe that they are above the law and public conscience. On another level, it reflects the desperation of Lalu's political heir. The Yadav clan members are perhaps getting a sense that things are spiralling out of control and have realised that the 'might is right' approach might be their only way out.

Fending off the allegations, Tejashwi simply said: "How could I indulge in corruption at an age when I hadn't even sprouted a moonch (moustache)?" His other defence was that he belonged to a backward caste family.

"How could I be embroiled in a criminal conspiracy at that age? I have been deputy chief minister for two years and am doing development work for Bihar. Modi used to fear Laluji but now he is fearful of me as well, a 28-year-old. The case filed against me is a political vendetta. We will not rest until the BJP is uprooted from the whole of India."

Directing his anger towards the media, he said: "Some of you constitute BJP-minded media... some new goondas have come in media who are disappointed that the grand coalition in Bihar is going strong. The grand coalition is indestructible."

The pertinent question is: Should Tejashwi, who now sports a moustache and a beard, resort to unleashing his goons to beat those who were only doing their duty as journalists.

The RJD has always been feared by the people in Bihar, which is precisely why Lalu and his clan were discarded in 2005 (Assembly elections), 2009 (General), 2010 (Assembly) – when Rabri lost elections from both the constituencies she contested – and 2014 (General). Lalu succeeded in the 2015 Assembly polls only when he aligned with Nitish's JD(U), and a prior commitment that Nitish would be chief minister.

The attack on media persons is bound to have severe implications for Nitish, who was already in a tight spot over the series of corruption charges levelled against almost every single member of the Yadav family.

Nitish's reputation as Sushashan Babu (governance man), who set right law and order in the state – earned during his 2005-2015 reign – is under threat now. Wednesday's attack on media persons by his deputy's men would make it incumbent on him to register a case against state policemen and RJD men present at the spot. Nitish is also minister-in-charge of the home ministry.

The problem for Tejashwi and the RJD stems from the fact that not only have the central investigative agencies – CBI, Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate – tightened their grip around them, Nitish now appears ready to take a tough stance on the issue.

A day before, Nitish had given a four-day deadline to the RJD to come clean on the corruption charges against its top leaders.

Responding to Nitish, Tejashwi lashed out at the BJP for what he called 'politically motivated attacks against him and his family.' He was trying to make his family's corruption enterprise into an emotive issue, to appeal to his party's core social constituency.

It's apparent that what worries the Yadav clan the most are the immediate implications – their continuance in the Bihar government hangs in the balance.

What Lalu, Rabri, Tejashwi, Tej Pratap, Misa, Ragini, Chanda and their backers in Congress party have conveniently forgotten is that the raids and FIRs registered by the CBI had essentially come after investigations done on voluminous documents submitted by Nitish's trusted party colleagues to then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, in 2008.

The Congress-led UPA government chose to sleep over those files for six years and it required the advent of the Modi government to begin action on those documents. Also, the income tax and enforcement directorate investigations on the Yadav clan's benami properties is as per demands made by Nitish in the aftermath of Modi's crackdown on benami property.

By supporting the Modi government on issues like the surgical strike, demonetisation, GST, and the Presidential election, Nitish has made his position clear - that unlike his peers in Opposition, he wouldn't indulge in politics of cynicism but rather support or oppose Modi government on merit.

His close aides in JD(U) point out that through decades of hard work, Nitish has earned an image of a clean and governance-oriented leader. That's his only capital and he wouldn't like to lose it at any cost – least of all for defending corruption charges against Lalu's family.

Sanjay Jha, national general secretary of JD(U), while speaking to Firstpost, said: "Hamari sarkar chale ya na chale, hum mulyon ke saath samjhauta nahi kar sakte (Regardless of whether we continue in government, we cannot compromise on our values).

It must be remembered here that when Nitish had parted ways with the BJP in 2013, he had unilaterally sacked all the BJP ministers without even informing them.

Under the circumstances, the question is not whether the JD(U)-RJD-Congress coalition is heading for a split but rather when.

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 06:28 AM

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