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Lalu hints at declaration in UP

Patna, Jan. 31: The RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, appears to have given up on neighbouring Uttar Pradesh after drubbing in successive elections and bypolls in Bihar.

The RJD cadres expected Lalu to start campaigning in UP after the marriage of his daughter, Ragini, was over. But three days after the high-profile wedding attended by President Pratibha Patil, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP patriarch L.K. Advani and Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, the state party cadres have not received any communication or instruction from the boss about the UP Assembly polls.

UP goes to six-phase polling from February 8.

Though the RJD has fielded about 200 candidates in the neighbouring state, the party, apparently, gives the impression that it has “withdrawn midway” from the battle. “We are not aware of any programme of the party in UP. So far, we have not received any instructions on the UP polls,” the Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, told The Telegraph.

The state RJD office also confirmed that Lalu had not communicated his plan of action in UP so far.

The way Lalu fixed Ragini’s wedding with a senior Samajwadi Party leader’s son, Rahul Singh, and reportedly used his “contacts” with the Congress to earn him a ticket, generated the impression that the RJD boss had his stakes in UP.

He, of late, is believed to have strengthened his “personal rapport” with the Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav. Both spoke in one voice on the issue of Anna Hazare and anti-corruption legislation in the Lok Sabha.

Insiders, however, conjectured that Lalu, this time, has decided to keep aloft his “personal rapprochement” with Mulayam and the Congress while confining himself to the status of a “fringe player” in UP affairs. They pointed out that the RJD boss might be working from behind the scenes to ensure victory of the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in UP keeping an eye on “long-term politics”.

But what Lalu is doing is thoroughly against the manner he functions. A flamboyant leader and loquacious speaker, the RJD boss would draw bigger crowd in his election meetings than even Mulayam and Mayawati — the key players in UP.

“The RJD never won many seats in UP, but Laluji used to derive pleasure addressing mammoth gatherings in UP’s hinterlands. He always enjoyed addressing big crowds and people rejoicing his antics,” said a close aide of Lalu.

But Lalu, to the dismay of his cadres, has been keeping out of action in UP.

His close associates also attribute Lalu’s loss of power and related wherewithal to “invest” in politics in other states. Even after losing Bihar to Nitish Kumar, Lalu was the Union railway minister till 2009.

“The party woefully lacks in resources to carry out political campaigns,” said a senior party leader, adding that the RJD boss had failed to cough up adequate funds for the party nominee contesting the by-election on the Laukaha seat in north Bihar.

Insiders also calculate that Lalu might be desperately looking ahead for Mulayam and the Congress to do well in UP so that a “ like-minded” combination could replace “cantankerous” Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as the UPA’s ally at the Centre, giving him a chance to stage a comeback in the Union ministry.