| Lalu Prasad in Patna on Friday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
A visibly tense Lalu Prasad was sitting in the outhouse of 10 Circular Road around 11am on Friday, watching the TV intensely with former Union minister Prem Gupta.
His wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi was trailing from Saran parliamentary seat. Daughter Misa Bharti was leading from Pataliputra parliamentary seat, but by just over 3,000.
“The margin is too small. It will be wiped out when EVMs in Ram Kripal’s strongholds are counted,” he literally cried. (By the time the paper went to press Misa was trailing by over 40,000 votes to the BJP’s Ram Kripal Yadav).
Lalu was in no mood to talk. “Come in the evening,” said his follower. A supporter raising “Lalu-Rabri zindabad” slogans was asked to shut up.
“It’s a disappointing day for us. While congratulating the BJP for their win, I must say the principles our party stood for are dead,” said party spokesperson Manoj Jha.
In terms of seats, the party tally hovered between four and six. “We were desperately looking for a double-digit figure. It appears it is not going to happen,” said an RJD leader.
It hurt the party even more that it was losing seats held by senior leaders like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Jagdanand Singh. Lalu had gone all out to ensure the win of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in Sasaram and former Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar. Both the candidates lost.
Lalu’s quest to revive his fortunes and stop Narendra Modi fell flat. It happened despite the hyped Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) consolidation. “Apparently, a section of Yadav voters got swayed by the Modi wave. The M-Y consolidation was not complete. On the contrary, consolidation of Muslim votes led to a BJP voter backlash. The withdrawal of JD(U) candidate from Kishanganj, Akhtarul Imam, after second phase of polling, triggered the backlash,” a senior leader said.
The defeat — fifth in a row for Lalu after three Assembly poll defeats and a Lok Sabha defeat — comes as a body blow. A section of the party feels it could not expand its base beyond Muslims and Yadavs.
RJD candidates gave the NDA a tough fight where it lost and won three of the five Assembly seats that were seeing a byelection. But, said an RJD MLA: “With Modi no longer an issue in Assembly polls, the Muslims may not back Lalu. It’s going to get more difficult to revive his fortunes.”
There is also a strong possibility of party leaders questioning Lalu’s move to promote dynasty politics — losing a loyal leader like Ram Kripal Yadav by fielding his daughter.