At a time when Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav have joined hands to fight the upcoming state elections, their former Janata Dal colleague Jaya Jaitly goes down the memory lane to recall how they parted ways two decades ago.
In 1994 at a trade union meeting in Dhanbad, Nitish complained to Janata Dal leader George Fernandes that Lalu, who was then chief minister was playing Yadav politics, which was upsetting his Kurmi-Koeri castes. Nitish was also upset about the fodder scam. Fernandes and Nitish Kumar then met VP Singh to say that Lalu should be reined in or they will break off from the party. Finally, 14 members, including Fernandes and Nitish, split from the Janata Dal and formed the Samata Party, of which Jaya Jaitly was made general secretary. Fernandes became its President.
“Nitish Kumar initiated the probe into the fodder scam. Now, he is holding hands with Lalu. How can they call themselves socialists? As for the Janata Parivar coming together, the reason is not ideological. They split on the basis of ego and personality and got together for that,” Jaitly said talking to DNA as she remembered the ups and downs in the politics of the state from the Janata Dal days. According to her, Bihar politics is going a full circle to the point at which Nitish Kumar himself had taken up the gauntlet.
Away from the bustle of politics, she works from a quiet small room on the mezzanine floor of her Dastkari Haat Samiti office, with shelves lined with books on one side, a table and chair and a poster on the wall of Amrita Shergill standing next to her painting of Jaitly’s grandfather, who was the Raja of Kollengode in Kerala. The only sign of her political past is a photograph of Fernandes.
The recent political developments in Bihar have brought back memories, some pleasant and others bitter. “Everyone forgets history because everything is just a sound byte long. When Lalu Prasad Yadav was chief minister there were problems. In the name of social justice there was casteism…. Nitish has aligned with those who have indulged in dynasty politics, corruption and casteism,” she said.
But, Nitish Kumar always liked his kurta to be spotless, she reminisces. He would try to keep away from the dogs at Fernandes’ residence and Jaitly would often tease him about gifting him a pup. On the other Fernandes, who was known to wear unironed kurtas, rarely combed his hair.
Jaitly calls Madhu Limaye, Karpuri Thakur and Fernandes the “real socialists who fought for their principles”. It was to fight Lalu that Nitish joined the BJP and now to fight BJP, he has joined Lalu. “It lets down every bit of sweat, tear and struggle of each of us from 1995 to 2005 when Nitish was made the chief minister,” she said.
When the Samata Party became JD-U, Fernandes was its president. But. In the 2006 internal election, Nitish Kumar organised a bogus vote and got Sharad Yadav to replace Fernandes, she said. What deeply hurt Fernandes was the way he was denied a ticket to fight the Muzzafarpur Lok Sabha election in 2009. Sharad Yadav had sent him a letter saying since he was not well he should not fight the election and instead be in Rajya Sabha. “That got his fighting spirit up and he fought independently. Nitish had got Jai Narayan Nishad from Congress,” Jaitly recalled.
She herself had to quit in the wake of the Tehelka controversy in 2001 during the Vajpayee regime. “I had done nothing wrong. But the only person who stood by me was George saab,” she said.
The supreme court has allowed Jaitly to visit ailing former defence minister, now 85, once in a fortnight. “He looks up, raises his eyebrows and tries to speak but I cant deduce how much he comprehends,” she said.
Jaitly, who does not wish to join any political party, still runs the journal “The Other Side” which Fernandes had started in 1985 focusing on social issues. “I run it only online because I cant afford to bring it out,” she said.
Courtesy: DNA India