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Nitish quits as Bihar CM, BJP extends its support to him

File photo of Nitish Kumar
File photo of Nitish Kumar
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today resigned from his position, breaking off his Janata Dal (United)'s "grand alliance" with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, and withiin hours the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party at the Centre, extended its support to him.
 
Mr. Nitish Kumar's move to quit as Chief Minister came hours after RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav reiterated that his son Tejashwi Yadav would not quit as deputy chief minister despite the CBI filing a case against him, signalling the end of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan that won a dramatic victory in the state elections in November 2015.
 
Mr. Kumar, 66, met Bihar Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi here this evening and handed over his resignation. Later, Mr. Kumar told journalists outside his official residence that the Governor had accepted his resignation and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangements were made.
 
Events began unfolding rapidly after that. Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Mr. Kumar's resignation, saying on micro-blogging site Twitter, "Congratulations to Nitish Kumar ji for joining the fight against corruption. 125 crore citizens welcome and support honesty."
 
"In the interest of the bright future of the nation, especially of Bihar, we have to rise above political differences and fight as one against corruption, that is the call of the nation and the time," he said. 
 
Within minutes, Mr. Kumar responded to that, conveying his "heartfelt thanks" to Mr. Modi for his reaction to his resignation.
 
The BJP Parliamentary Board went into a huddle in Delhi and said later that the party did not wish to see mid-term elections in Bihar and would like to ensure stability in the state. It said a three-member committee of the party in Bihar would advise the party's leadership about the future course of action.
 
Shortly thereafter, MLAs of the JD (U) and the BJP started gathering at Mr. Kumar's residence. Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who was Deputy Chief Minister in Mr Kumar's cabinet earlier, when the two parties were in alliance, told journalists that the BJP had decided to support the JD (U) in formation of a new government.
 
"We are going to join the government. The MLAs of the two parties will elect Mr. Kumar as their new leader. A letter conveying our support to Mr. Kumar has already been sent to the Governor," Mr. Modi said.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Yadav addressed a press conference at which he said Tejashwi Yadav, 28, would not resign from his position, arguing that the case filed against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this month was a "fake case".
 
Mr. Kumar said that he had tried his best to run the state government and adhere to the "coalition dharma" but a stage had been reached where he found that he could not continue in office without straying from his principles.
 
He said he had never asked for Tejashwi's resignation but had asked him and Mr. Yadav that they must give a public explanation about the charges against them.
 
He said he had raised this issue with Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi at their meeting in New Delhi some days ago. He regretted that there was no response from any of them.
 
"The atmosphere had become such that it was impossible to work. My conscience told me to resign," he said.
 
Mr. Kumar said he had informed Mr. Yadav, the state leadership of the Congress and his party legislators of his decision before driving down to Raj Bhavan to hand in his papers.
 
He said he was attacked for supporting demonetisation and later for backing the NDA's presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. "I faced so many charges. The Opposition has no agenda, no discourse. They only have a reactive agenda," he said.
 
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Mr. Kumar also talked about the various steps he had taken to ensure good governance and social justice in Bihar, including imposition of prohibition. "I tried to run the government as long as possible," he said.
 
On July 7, the CBI had conducted raids at the residence and other premises of Mr. Yadav and others in five cities in connection with a case registered by it on July 5 against them for alleged irregularities in the award of tender for managing two IRCTC hotels in 2006.
 
The CBI said the case had been registered under section 120 B, read with section 420, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 13 (2) read with 13 (1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against Mr. Yadav; his wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi and his son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav; Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar, directors of Sujata Hotels, Patna; Mrs Sarla Gupta, wife of RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta; Delight Marketing Company, Patna; Lara Projects, a company owned by Mr. Yadav's family; then IRCTC Managing Director P K Goyal; and unknown others.
 
The case related to the award of tenders for the development, maintenance and operation of BNR Hotels at Ranchi in Jharkhand and at Puri in Odisha to Sujata Hotels in 2006, when Mr. Yadav was Minister for Railways. Mr. Yadav is also a former Chief Minister of Bihar.
 
A CBI spokesman had said at that time that the case had been registered consequent to a preliminary enquiry conducted by the agency which "prima facie revealed" that Mr. Yadav had derived undue advantage by abuse of his official position.
 
He said that the private hotel company had, in return for favours, sold three acres of Patna to the private marketing company, in which Mrs. Gupta, the wife of Mr. Yadav's close associate, was a director, at a price which was less than the prevalent circle rate.
 
It was alleged that this favour was in return for the award of long term lease for the two hotels by manipulating the tender process. The ownership of the hotels, owned by the Railways, was first transferred to the public sector Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) which, in turn, invited tenders for managing them.
 
It was also alleged that, as per available records, the entire shareholding of the private marketing company was transferred to Mrs. Rabri Devi and Mr. Tejaswi Yadav between 2010 and 2014 for a consideration of approximately Rs. 64 lakh when the company owned land worth around Rs. 32.5 crore as per the circle rate and around Rs. 94 crore as per the market rate.
 
The spokesman said that between 2004 and 2014, a conspiracy was hatched under which the two railway hotels were first transferred to IRCTC and then given on lease to the private hotel company by manipulating the tender process and tweaking the terms so as to benefit the Patna company.
 
"The allegation is that during this process, the tender process was rigged and manipulated and the conditions were tweaked, to help the private party. In return, three acres of land in western Patna was given to Delight Marketing Private Limited, owned by associates of Mr. Yadav, at a price far below the circle rate," he said.
 
The land was finally transferred to Mr. Yadav and his family, again at rates far below the circle and market rates, the spokesman said.
 
"Subsequently between 2010 and 2014, this land was transferred to Lara Projects, owned by Lalu's family. This transfer was also at a very low price. The land was valued at Rs 32 crore as per circle rates at that time. It was transferred for a mere Rs 54 lakhs to Lara Projects," he said.
 
Mr. Yadav has repeatedly said that the case and the raids were an act of  "political vendetta" by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.
 
NNN
 
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