"Lalu Prasad is our leader and there cannot be a debate on this," senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said today, a day after controversial former MP of the party Mohammed Shahabuddin termed Nitish Kumar a "CM of circumstances", laying bare the divide in Bihar's ruling alliance.
Singh went on to say he had disfavoured anointing Nitish Kumar as chief ministerial candidate of the Grand Alliance comprising JD(U), RJD and Congress.
"There are different parties in the alliance and Lalu Prasad is our leader. The leaders of the alliance partners decided on making Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister (even before the election). I disfavoured it, but the leaders had already taken a decision," he said.
Singh, a former Union minister and RJD vice president, said,"What is wrong in it (Shahabuddin's statement)? Nitish Kumar has indeed been a Chief Minister of circumstances and not because of his own strength and numbers."
Kumar, however, termed as "unimportant" Mohammad Shahabuddin's remarks describing him as a "Chief Minister of circumstances", asserting "everybody knows about the mandate of the people".
"We have not got the mandate to give reactions. You (mediapersons) too are wasting your time and space on this. Everybody knows what is the mandate of the people of Bihar. Should I go by the people's mandate or pay attention to what someone is saying ? We have not paid attention to such things in the past. All these things are not important," Kumar told reporters.
He also rubbished allegation that the government had facilitated the release of Shahabuddin, a former four-time MP from Siwan who is facing early 40 cases of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and extortion.
"There is a legal process. The law takes its own course. He got jailed and was released on bail....There is no role (of the government in all this," he said.
Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, however, termed Shahabuddin's release on bail part of a "well planned strategy" of the state government and backed the RJD strongman's remarks that Nitish Kumar was a chief minister of circumstances. More
Shahabuddin, meanwhile, stood by his remark that Lalu was his leader.
"We are part of an alliance which has different parties. All parties have their leaders. For those in JD(U), Nitish Kumar is their leader. For us, Lalu Prasad is our leader. What is there in it? How can I consider third, fourth man as my leader," he told reporters in Siwan.
Meanwhile, senior lawyer and Swaraj Abhiyan leader Prashant Bhushan told a TV channel he would move the supreme court challenging bail to Shahabuddin.
"I definitely said I will help...It is indeed a matter of shame that a notorious gangster who has been convicted of murder, kidnapping etc gets bail. This is not right," he said.
About government's alleged complicity in ensuring bail to Shahabuddin, he said," I don't know if the government has extended any help, it might have."
Lalu Prasad's RJD is the single largest party in the 243-member Bihar Assembly, followed by JD(U) which has 71 MLAs. Congress, another alliance partner, has 27 members in the Lower House.
The three parties had entered into a pre-poll alliance and gone to the hustings after declaring Nitish Kumar as the coalition's chief ministerial face.