| Lalu Prasad’s eldest son Tej Pratap chats with friends at 10 Circular Road before the special CBI court announced the quantum of punishment on Thursday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
Patna, Oct. 3: The five-year imprisonment of Lalu Prasad is the biggest ever setback for the RJD.
The party — already reduced to 22 MLAs and three MPs (Lalu has lost his membership by operation of the law) — runs the risk of contesting the crucial 2014 Lok Sabha polls without its star campaigner. Lalu cannot be out to campaign unless he gets bail in the case from a higher court.
Also, the beleaguered RJD might lose the backing of the Congress, which is of late cosying up to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). The withdrawal of the ordinance and the bill to protect the “tainted” lawmakers after the Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, opposed them in public is being widely interpreted as the last nail in the 15-year-old relationship between Lalu’s RJD and the Congress.
The RJD at present has two challenges. First, it will find it an uphill task to compensate for the possible loss the “cushion” it had in the shape of the ruling Congress at the Centre. Second, it might find equally hard to keep its flock together.
The senior party leaders — from Raghuvansh Prasad Singh to Ram Kripal Yadav and from Prabhunath Singh to Jagdanand Singh — have put up a brave face for now. “When a lion goes momentarily behind the haze of bushes, smaller animals smile feeling relieved. But the smile disappears as soon as the lion returns. Lalu is a lion. He will come roaring to devour his enemies,” said the senior party MP, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, adding that the party was united like a rock.
Lalu’s wife, Rabri Devi, said: “We shall go to go the people’s court besides the appellate courts. The poor Bihar masses are angry as they find their soul and voice caged in jail without any complicity. Garib log injustice ka badla lengein (the poor people will avenge the injustice meted out to their leader).”
Right from small to big RJD leaders trained their guns on the JD(U)-BJP combine for falsely implicating Lalu. “Nitish Kumar’s party and the BJP have framed our leader (Lalu),” Ram Kripal said.
Against this backdrop, the RJD has convened a meeting of the party MPs, legislators and cadre at the Rabri Devi’s 10 Circular Road house here on October 6 to decide on the future course of action.
With enormous trouble encircling the RJD, its prime opponents — the JD(U) and the BJP — are treading cautiously to exploit on the situation. With an eye on the Muslim vote bank that Lalu controlled, neither Nitish nor any other senior JD(U) leader has openly attacked Lalu. They fear that the attack on him might anger his Muslim support base, which by and large stayed with him for over two decades.
The BJP, eyeing the Yadavs’ votes, has preferred to stay mum for the same reason.