The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo smiles, workers frown

Patna/Gaya, Dec. 7: Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders are worried as their chief Laloo Prasad Yadav seems 'overconfident' ahead of next year's Assembly election in Bihar.

While Laloo Prasad has been flying high after the Lok Sabha election and more recently, the Maharashtra Assembly poll, party workers here are in no mood to celebrate just yet. Memories of the 1999 parliamentary elections in Bihar ' in which the RJD did not fare well ' continue to serve as a reminder to them.

The problem, as a senior RJD leader put it, is making the railway minister realise that the party should not take the elections for granted. Such arrogance, more than anything else, perhaps made Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan drift apart, feel sources.

In his public meetings, Laloo Prasad has been saying that those who do not agree with him are free to leave the RJD. This is in sharp contrast to his approach before this year's Lok Sabha elections, when he dealt patiently with all and sundry in the party.

The first victim of Laloo Prasad's 'couldn't care less' attitude was former friend Shivanand Tiwari, who had defended the RJD chief in no uncertain terms in the past.

'True, the NDA is in complete disarray and has not been able to put its act together, the Congress has no option but to continue with its tie-up with the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan, in the absence of any formidable caste coalition, continues to be seen as a 'votekatwa'.

'But complacency can prove counter-productive. The minorities have supported us for 'negative' reasons and with the BJP threat receding considerably, the Muslims may not be too enthusiastic about voting for the RJD. They can even protest against the high-handedness of Yadav leaders,' he added.

Recently, a Patna-based poet penned his thoughts on the Muslim-Yadav equation ' the pillar of the RJD's 'strength' in the state. 'Bhaichare ka ye na matlab hona chahiye, hum (Muslims) to unko (Yadavs) bhai samjhein aur woh chara humein. (This shouldn't be the meaning of brotherhood: we consider them our brothers while they treat us as fodder).'

Moreover, the RJD has to deal with a large number of ambitious Yadavs with questionable antecedents. While they may not be able to make it to the Assembly on their own, these Yadavs do have the potential to put the RJD in a spot of bother, feels political activist S.B. Bhaskar.

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