Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday hinted that he agreed with the contention of ally Rashtriya Janata Dal that the recent crackdown on its president Lalu Prasad and his family members by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate was "politically motivated".
This was in contrast to the stand he took in 2017, when he had wanted the ally to come clean on charges of corruption.
The JD-U leader also rubbished speculations that he was maintaining an eloquent silence on the issue because of anxieties about tarnishing his own image for probity by aligning with "tainted" politicians and could even be thinking of breaking away with the "Mahagathbandhan", which besides RJD, also includes Congress and the Left.
Kumar was approached with queries by journalists who wanted to know about his views on the questioning of Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi by the CBI earlier this week, followed by raids conducted on a number of premises, including houses of his three daughters and a daughter in law by ED on Friday and a fresh summons issued by the CBI to younger son and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav.
In a video statement, RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha warned that people of Bihar will take to the streets upon learning that Yadav's "pregnant wife was taken ill with high blood pressure" because of the ED raids at her house that "continued till 4 am today".
"What do I have to say, those who are at the receiving end are giving an adequate response," said Kumar in his trademark enigmatic style, before adding, "similar things had happened in 2017 when I was on this side (in the anti-BJP camp). Now that I am here again, these things are happening again."
The allusion was to the land for hotels case in which the ED had named, along with others, Yadav, who was the deputy CM then as well, and Kumar recalled having asked the young RJD leader to "explain" his side of the story and the BJP having exploited the situation to its advantage.
Kumar was understood to have asked Yadav to resign his ministerial berth on moral grounds for the period till his name was cleared, a proposition to which the RJD did not agree.
The JD-U leader himself resigned as chief minister, in disgust, and the BJP, his former ally, came with the offer of unconditional support.
Subsequently, Kumar formed a new government with the BJP, in less than 24 hours of resigning.
"I do not wish to take any names because the person (in BJP) who came to me with the offer of support may get further marginalised in his party," said Kumar, but dropped his guard when journalists found the clue and mentioned former Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi.
"What do I say about Sushil Kumar Modi. I need not repeat that I never wanted him to suffer his current fate. But he is welcome to keep speaking against me. Maybe it will resurrect him politically," said Kumar, visibly upset over the tirade against himself by the former deputy ever since he dumped the BJP in August last year.
Kumar also made light of his JD-U not being a signatory to the recent letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in protest against CBI arresting Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, and said, "I will be there when all parties (opposed to BJP) agree to unitedly fight the next Lok Sabha polls."
The JD-U chief, however, reiterated, "I have no (prime ministerial) ambitions for myself. I had made it clear even at the recent convention of CPIML(L) where all constituents of the Mahagathbandhan were present. I had even asked the Congress to take the lead in forging oppositional unity."
To a pointed question as to whether he could think of pulling out of the "opposition camp" because of corruption cases against leaders of most non-NDA parties, he exclaimed, "The question does not arise."