At a time when the RJD was seemingly gaining ground it had lost in the state, the conviction -- and jailing -- of Lalu Prasad has come as a major setback to the party.
Party activists and leaders sounded upset and uncertain about the RJD’s future.
Publicly, RJD leaders are putting up a brave face, saying the party was united. Some want Lalu Prasad’s wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi to lead them.
“We are all with Laluji in this time of crisis. The party is united and intact,” RJD MP Ram Kirpal Yadav said.
A senior RJD leader, Veena Shahi, urged Rabri Devi to lead the party.
“We know there is no alternate to Lalu, but his popularity will increase now among his traditional supporters,” she said.
The situation on the ground seems different. After the special CBI court pronounces the quantum of punishment Thursday, Lalu Prasad is expected to lose his membership of the Parliament.
A senior RJD leader said that there has been no formal decision on whether a core committee would be formed to look after the party affairs.
“It is not an easy task to resolve, it is a big challenge for the party, its workers and leaders,” he admitted.
RJD activists fear that the Congress will now happily dump the RJD and go with Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar. “After the conviction, Lalu is not in a position to claim to be the main rival to Nitish Kumar,” another RJD leader said. In contrast, there is happiness in both the JD-U and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Nitish Kumar has refused to say anything on the verdict. “I don’t react to court verdicts.”
BJP leaders have begun to eye Lalu’s support base, particularly the Yadavs who constitute over nine per cent of Bihar’s 105-million strong population.
“Our party is the only force to gain (from this development),” BJP leader Giriraj Singh asserted.
JD-U leaders hope that Muslims, who constitute 16.5 per cent of the population, will now be attracted towards their party,in part because of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
BJP hails Lalu’s conviction
NEW DELHI: The BJP on Monday hailed Lalu Prasad’s conviction, saying it was a day of justice for the people of Bihar. “It is a historic judgment and a justice day for the 10 crore people of Bihar,” BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said. He said although justice was delayed, this was an important decision. “We welcome the verdict. We believe Lalu Prasad was saving himself since the last 10 years by political compromises with the UPA.” He also questioned if a similar verdict would come in other scam cases. “We wonder, after this historic judgment, would a similar judgment come in the 2G scam, CWG (Commonwealth Games, 2010) scam, coal scam (alleged fraudulence in allocation of coal blocks), and railgate (the Rs 10 crore railway bribery case in which former railway minister Pawan Bansal’s nephew is an accused),” Rudy said. BJP’s Rajnath Singh added that there was now a crisis of credibility about politicians in the country. “We don’t comment on a court judgment... we wholeheartedly accept it,” he said. “There is a crisis of credibility now regarding politicians of the country, and I believe there is a need to ensure that politicians do not indulge in anything that could malign them,” he further added.
The Fodder scam
The fodder scam, which was unearthed in 1996, is based on the misuse of Rs 37 crore of public money, part of a larger scam that saw Rs 950 crore being used to pay fictitious bills for medicines and fodder for cattle in Bihar. The CBI has alleged that as chief minister Yadav accepted kickbacks, and was aware of the financial malevolence of officials whom he‘constantly shielded and patronised’.
On the road
Hours before Lalu was found guilty in the scam, the former CM sought divine intervention. He reached Ranchi with his son Tejaswi by a plane on Sunday, and stayed in the railway guest house. On the way to the court in the morning, the former Bihar CM offered prayers at the Durga temple on Ranchi’s Ratu Road.