Patna, Oct. 5: The RJD will adopt a unique resolution — “Laluji will remain our leader and guide wherever and in whatever situation he is” — tomorrow at its first emergency conclave after Lalu Prasad went to jail.
The party will make it clear there will be no alternative arrangement.
“All MPs, MLAs, former MPs, former MLAs, office- bearers will converge at Rabri Devi’s home for a common cause, Laluji. We will fan out in the hinterlands collectively to tell the masses how our guide has fallen prey to chief minister Nitish Kumar and the BJP’s conspiracy”, party general secretary Ram Kripal Yadav told The Telegraph.
Rabri Devi would chair the meet, Yadav said. “But it will be a collective leadership. Much before going to jail, Lalu Prasad had announced that the party would organise meetings beginning October 20 to highlight the Nitish government’s “failure” in all the 243 Assembly constituencies. Tomorrow, we will finalise more elements to be added to the programme,” he said.
What appears to have galvanised the RJD cadre is the “recognition” of an undercurrent of sympathy for Lalu — particularly among Yadav and Muslim voters — after the court sent him to jail. Contrary to the ruling JD(U) strategists’ calculation that the RJD flock would be up for grabs once their boss goes behind bars, Lalu’s party is increasingly getting united.
Ironically, it is the JD(U) that is falling prey to dissension. Its two MPs, Jai Narayan Nishad and Purnamasi Ram, were suspended for switching sides to the RJD and BJP. Party MLA Chhedi Paswan crossed over to the BJP recently. And if the grapevine is to be believed, the party’s MP from Jhanjharpur, Mangnilal Mandal, and a few others are likely to leave the JD(U) for either the RJD or other “pastures greener than the JD(U)”.
The RJD MP from Maharajganj, Prabhunath Singh, asserted: “Lalu is more to Bihar than what Jaganmohan Reddy and N.T. Ramarao are to Andhra Pradesh and M.G. Ramchandran to Tamil Nadu. The more Lalu remains in jail, the more anger will grow among the people and help the RJD. You can revisit history to see how the RJD has grown whenever Lalu has gone to jail.”
Several political observers recalled Lalu’s “fanatical” support base in RJD’s history. In the mid-1990s there was a time when all top state leaders, including Sharad Yadav, George Fernandes, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar, worked under Lalu’s stewardship.
Suffocating under his “dabangg (tough)” persona, most of these leaders left one after the other to form their separate outfits. George and Nitish formed the Samata Party, Sharad formed the JD(U) to which the Samata Party later merged. Ram Vilas got his LJP.
Lalu was left with what is now the RJD in 1997 after Sharad left. He led it to a 17-seat victory in Lok Sabha in 1998 — more than what the Samata Party, JD(U) and LJP together won.
The RJD staged a comeback in the 2000 Assembly elections and in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, too, the RJD won left its opponents far behind bagging 24 seats. The JD(U)-BJP alliance eventually wrested power from the RJD in 2005 and retained it in 2010. The alliance swept the Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
From 2000 onwards, Lalu’s votebank kept consistently eroding against the combined might of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA. Still, his RJD recorded over 18.86 per cent votes polled in its favour against the JD(U)’s 22.58 per cent and BJP’s 15.56 per cent. “We got 18.86 per cent votes at our worst time. There is no reason for our vote bank to go down from here. ‘There is every reason, instead, for the BJP and JD(U)’s vote share to go down for they have fallen apart,” said a senior RJD leader.