The special CBI court in Ranchi has convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad, along with 44 others, for the infamous fodder scam. Though by today's corruption index Rs. 37 crore is loose change, in its time 17 years ago, the amount was worth jaw-dropping.
The verdict is music to Lalu's political rivals but it is too early to infer whether this will upset the political equations, and even if it does, it is likely to be for a short while. It will now be interesting to observe political parties in Bihar: What will be the RJD's fate? What will the Congress do? Will this verdict gravitate the GOP towards Nitish Kumar's party? Will there be a political vacuum, and if so, will the BJP make the most of it?
Whatever be the inference, it is premature to write Lalu's political epitaph and credulous to think that his political career is over. Sadly, constitutional position has not always been the deciding factor in Indian politics - this is especially evident in the 'soul of India'. Politicians, by generating ingenuous caste-equations, rule the roost without any constitutional mandate. The same is the case with caste heads and landlords in other places. In 1997, Lalu himself showed that to be in power, one need not actually be in power. Just before surrendering before the CBI court, he appointed Rabri Devi, his wife, and today she is a three-time CM of Bihar. Without even having a sizable vote-share parties like Shiv Sena and MNS in Maharashtra and PMK in Tamil Nadu, among others, have carved out their pockets of influence.
Lalu Prasad is a politician who has not been in power or occupying political prominence for some time now. This in itself robs the 'catharsis' (with all its dramatic effects) the verdict would have otherwise had. We can sigh in relief that the Augean stables of Indian politics are really being cleaned if a more prominent politician, maybe a minister, is convicted.
History is replete with stories of political comebacks and the number of politicians whose career came to a halt because of a court verdict is far from few. Lalu might not have a wisecrack to share today, but today is a Monday and aren't Monday Blues common.
(The views expressed are personal.)