Patna, May 28: It was billed to be a meeting for Lalu Prasad to rejuvenate the sagging morale of the cadres, but the national executive of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) instead threw up questions about the leadership of the party.
Three of the RJD’s four Lok Sabha members stayed away from the meeting held at a city hotel today even as Lalu sought to gear up his party for the next general elections, scheduled for 2014.
Raghubansh Prasad Singh, Jagdanand Singh and Umashankar Singh — the MPs from Vaishali, Buxar and Maharajganj respectively — all chose to skip the crucial daylong meeting. Besides the trio, Lalu is the other MP from the party in the Lok Sabha.
Lalu sought to make light of the absence of the stalwarts. “Jagdanand has been a trusted soldier of the party. He is under the weather owing to the excessive heat. Raghubansh and Umashankar are away in Dehra Dun and Mumbai. They are very much an integral part of the RJD,” the party chief said in an attempt to rebut suggestions of any rift within the organisation.
The three MPs took pains to suggest that too much should not be read into their absence. “Raghubanshbabu spoke to Laluji and explained the reasons for his absence,” an aide to the Vaishali MP told The Telegraph over phone. Sources said the other leaders too had spoken to Lalu Prasad “seeking his permission to stay away because of their preoccupations”.
But sources in the RJD said that after successive electoral setbacks in the state and with no clear plan on how to get the party back on track, Lalu Prasad had “lost the confidence” of his senior colleagues. “The party continues to be in the grip of demoralisation and Lalu still has miles to go to inculcate confidence among the party leaders and cadres,” said a senior RJD leader.
The leader pointed out that Lalu’s decision to name the party office in New Delhi after his wife and promote his family within the organisation without taking the consent of senior leaders had not gone down well with them.
Lalu though appeared unfazed by the signs of unrest and predicted that the NDA would fall like a “house of cards” in the state.
“NDA toot ke kagar bar hai, do bailon ki jodi bichcharne wali hai (NDA is on the verge of a break-up, two oxen are about to get separated soon),” he remarked at the end of the meet.
“It is going to be a battle between the communal forces on the one hand and secular ones on another. The RJD, Congress, CPM, CPI, CPI ML and LJP will comprise the secular alliance against the BJP-led NDA,” he said. “The secular alliance will have no truck with the NDA partners.”
He did not forget to attack his prime adversary, chief minister Nitish Kumar. “He (Nitish) is a hypocrite of the first order. He shakes hands with Narendra Modi — a byword for communal politics — when it suits him and at times he shows his differences with him,” the RJD boss said.