Lalu calls the shots from hospital
Notwithstanding the fodder scam conviction, opposition politics coalesces around RJD chief
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad has been in prison for over a year now after being convicted in fodder scam cases, but he continues to be the biggest electoral glue for the opposition parties in the State.
The government hospital in Ranchi, where he is admitted for medical attention, has lately become the epicentre of the seat-sharing confabulations among leaders of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance).
“One may take Lalu out of Bihar, but no one can take Bihar out of Lalu… for nearly three decades he has been at the centre of State politics,” said senior RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari.
After the party’s parliamentary board meeting in Patna recently, RJD leaders authorised Mr. Prasad to take a final call on party candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as also seat-sharing arrangements with the party’s alliance partners.
“Lalu’s vote bank has increased since his imprisonment as was reflected in the Assembly and Lok Sabha bypoll results,” said political anayst Ajay Kumar. “It has also given him an opportunity to create a political base for his younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav.”
“Despite all the opposition voices, there is no leader in Bihar today who has mass support like Lalu. He is the political pulse of the State,” said Mr. Kumar.
State RJD leaders believe that Mr. Prasad would be able to finalise seat-sharing arrangements with the party’s alliance partners soon. “Leaders of almost all alliance partners have met Laluji at the Ranchi hospital and an announcement on seat sharing would be made soon,” said State RJD chief Ram Chandra Purve.
However, BJP leaders refuse to accept the political and electoral invincibility of Mr. Prasad. “Lalu is no more a mass leader but a caste leader… what happened to his invincibility in the 2005 Assembly and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls? His vote share too is decreasing,” a senior State BJP leader said.
“Lalu is now a spent force. He is in jail in corruption cases and several of his family members too are facing charges. We all know very well what the previous RJD regime was all about…everywhere there was loot and crime,” said Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.
His party leaders, however, are hopeful that he would get bail and come out to campaign in the upcoming polls. In the 2015 Assembly polls, he addressed nearly 300 rallies and public meetings. “The bail petition was filed in Supreme Court in the last week of February. We hope Lalu gets bail and comes out of jail to campaign,” Mr. Tiwari said.