New Delhi, Aug. 16: Lalu Prasad today announced he would compete for the chief ministers post in Bihar, a decision that signals the exit of wife Rabri Devi from the race.
The RJD leader made a fervent appeal to the electorate to trust a reformed Lalu and help him return to the chief ministers chamber after an almost 14-year vanvas (exile).
The Telegraph had reported the imminent exit of Rabri Devi on July 28.
Lalu Prasad sat like an obedient child as his ally, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, announced that they would seek the peoples mandate by projecting the RJD leader as chief ministerial candidate.
Paswans brother, state LJP president Pasupati Paras, would be deputy chief minister. Paswan said he would remain focused on his role at the Centre.
The two parties have firmed up their alliance for the upcoming Assembly polls, scotching rumours of a split. The RJD will contest 168 seats and the LJP 75.
The focus today, however, was on Lalu Prasad, who used the joint news conference to strive for an image makeover and project himself as a leader different from what Bihar had witnessed in the 15 years he had ruled directly or through Rabri Devi.
Jaise Indian Railways ka naam desh bidesh mein chamkaya waise hi Bihar ka bhi vikas karenge… RJD ab woh RJD nahi hai (Just as I made India Railways shine nationally and internationally I will develop Bihar… the RJD now is very different from what it used to be), Lalu Prasad declared, making an attempt to match chief minister Nitish Kumars development plank.
Lalu Prasad also stressed that if he regained power, Bihar would be spared the anarchy earlier let loose by his brothers-in-law and goons patronised by his party. There will be no place for people who have tarnished my image in the past. They will not be tolerated, he declared.
Sources said Lalu Prasad was initially reluctant to drop Rabri but succumbed to pressure from senior party leaders who argued that his wife would be no match for Nitish.
Lalu Prasad had virtually dragged Rabri out of the kitchen in June 1997 to replace him after he was charge-sheeted in the fodder scam and compelled to step down. Rabri continued to occupy the top post and Lalu Prasad ruled through proxy till the RJD was defeated in the 2005 polls.
Lalu Prasad was stumped for an answer when asked what would happen to Rabri. Humlog pati patni hain… (we are husband and wife), was all he said. He, however, clarified that Rabri would contest the elections.
Will he too contest? Lalu Prasad again paused for a while and replied with a counter question. Nitish contest karte hai kya.... Lalu aur Paswanji to har seat par contest karenge (Does Nitish contest…. Lalu and Paswan will be contesting all the seats).