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Dissidents land Lalu in tight spot

Patna, Feb 24: Nitish Kumar this evening expressed his ignorance over the split in the RJD — a big blow to his archrival Lalu Prasad.

“I don’t know. I am hearing from you (media) what has happened in the RJD. I had gone to attend Aryabhatta Knowledge University’s convocation. I have just concluded the cabinet meet. I will find out and let you know,” Nitish innocently said when asked about the “split” in the RJD.

By the time Nitish expressed his “innocence”, he had apparently succeeded in giving his archrival Lalu Prasad almost as big a blow as he had given by replacing the Lalu-Rabri regime in 2005. Nitish had succeeded in replacing the regime that was entrenched in power from 1990 to 2005. Today, he was said to have dealt the heaviest ever blow to the RJD boss when the latter had almost succeeded in bringing the Congress back to his fold and was seeing a chance for his revival through the Lok Sabha polls. He had given a sign of recovery by convincingly winning the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat in a by-election last year.

Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary’s notification on 13 of the RJD MLAs were “unattached” came as a double blow to the RJD boss on the day Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP gave enough hint of deserting the Lalu-led alliance and going back to the BJP fold. The RJD, reduced to 22 MLAs in the 2010 elections, lost whatever muscle it had in the Assembly after the split.

A section of observers felt that Lalu — once the mightiest of the Bihar’s triumvirate, including Nitish and Paswan — might lose psychological advantage that he had over the JD(U) that looked down and enervated in the wake of parting ways with the BJP.

Besides, Nitish with “more MLAs” in his support in the Assembly now might be able to “convince” the Muslims constituting about 16 per cent of the state’s electorate that he was the “biggest” secular force and as such the largest minority community should throw its weight behind him rather than a “weaker” Lalu, whose party has been reduced to nine MLAs (after the Speaker’s notification) and three MPs.

The “split” in the RJD came as a big shock to Lalu in the sense that he had succeeded in keeping his flock together even after getting convicted and going to jail in a fodder scam case in October last year. “It is a big blow to us. We are in real trouble,” said a senior RJD leader close to Lalu.

But the RJD legislature party leader, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, exuded confidence. “It is not for the first time Laluji has fallen in such trouble. He will come out stronger,” Siddiqui said.

Himself a powerful Muslim leader from north Bihar’s Mithila region, Siddiqui asserted that the Muslims would not desert Lalu. “The Muslims have seen what Nitish and others (read Paswan) have done to stay afloat in power. Lalu’s secular credential will see him through once again,” Siddiqui said.