Patna: He dominated the Bihar’s political scene for more than four decades. He was the face of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the sole architect of its destiny. How things have changed for the once mighty Lalu Prasad! He no more seems to be in control of party which has got embroiled in severe factional fight in anticipation of his being incarcerated in the fodder scam.
Even as he awaits verdict in one of the cases in the scam next month, a bitter race has ensued among the senior leaders for the post of the party’s working president in his absence. Party insiders said there are at least six claimants to this post - Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Prabhunath Singh, Prem Kumar Gupta, Ramkripal Yadav, Jaiprakash Yadav and Abdul Bari Sidiqui. Of them, Lalu is said to be keen on handing over the party throne to either Raghuvansh Prasad Singh or Siddiqui with eyes on Rajput and Muslim vote banks which could be the game changers in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Both these castes account for roughly 22 percent of the total votes and if about 15 percent of Yadav votes are added, it comes to a majestic 37 percent of the total votes in Bihar, enough for any party to form the government. The outcome of the recent by-poll to the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat, in which the RJD was able to serve a massive defeat to the ruling JD(U) candidate, too, hinted at the equation Lalu is aiming at.
But the problem for Lalu is that his leaders are said to be opposing each other’s candidature now that it becomes clear his fate is sealed. The Supreme Court’s ruling which has held that a person in lawful custody—whether convicted in a criminal case or otherwise—cannot contest elections means there could be a full-stop to Lalu’s political career. Obviously, the situation is not favourable for Lalu and hence the troubles.
All he appears to be at this moment is a silent watcher, helpless to tame the situation. Thus, the candidature of former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is being opposed by his fellow caste man Prabhunath Singh, the new entrant to the RJD while former Union minister MAA Fatmi is countering the candidature of Siddiqui.
On the other hand, Lalu does not want to name any one from his community apparently apprehending they could emerge as leader of Yadavs of which he claims to be the lone leader. He has been the unchallenged leader of his vast community since he became the chief minister of Bihar in 1990. The Yadav voters have significant political strength in the caste-based politics of Bihar and one reason why Lalu has survived despite all odds is their unequivocal support to him.
But, they are said to be nervous at the moment and there is every chance of a sharp division in their ranks in case Lalu goes to jail in the fodder scam. This powerful caste is now angry over the way the ruling JD(U) regime headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar has continued targeting the Yadavs in common and Lalu in particular after coming to power in 2005.
Under such a situation, observers opine, Yadavs may be forced to lend their weight behind the BJP to oust the Nitish Kumar government in case they find the RJD has gone rudderless minus Lalu. Voting for the RJD may indirectly mean return of Nitish due to sharp split in their votes. At the moment, there is no powerful leader of the Yadav community except Lalu. His complete dominance stalled the rise of any other leader. There’s a rush to fill the vacuum now.
Lalu’s once two most powerful brothers-in-law, Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav, to some extent grew under his shadow and had significant influence on this community while the RJD government was in power. They soon fell from grace owing to their frequent involvement in controversial acts. Eventually, both were removed from the houses of their jijaji soon after the RJD was out of power and the blame for the misfortune of the party was put on these two.
Aware of this predicament of the RJD, the BJP is planning to make huge gains in Yadav votes by roping in Lalu’s brothers-in-law. If successful this could be game changer for the party. It was, thus, no coincidence that Sadhu was given the chance to sip tea with Guajarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, BJP’s possible prime ministerial candidate.