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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Smart games Lalu plays

Mammen Matthew, Hindustan Times  Patna, February 13, 2014
First Published: 01:02 IST(13/2/2014) | Last Updated: 01:06 IST(13/2/2014)

Lalu Prasad is past master at drawing attention to himself and wrenching victory out of a difficult situation.

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And what the RJD chief is trying now by holding a rally on the same day and in same location as the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi is a fresh one out of his box of tricks.

There’s a bigger game plan involved in the move than what meets the eye: It will get him extra mileage as the commander of the ‘secular forces’. And if Bihar CM Nitish Kumar or the BJP cry foul, it’s all the better for him. He could use that to his political end.

Prasad took one day to produce his strategy to counter Modi after the BJP brass declared Modi’s rally plans for Muzaffarpur. The time suited Prasad perfectly, “since the UPA’s alliance-making exercise will be over in Bihar by then”.

One of the top state bureaucrats said on condition of anonymity that after the blasts at Modi’s Patna rally on October 27, the administration would be obsessive with security concerns ahead of Modi’s Muzaffarpur rally.

He said, “With Lalu pitching for another rally with his militant Yadavs and a huge Muslim following in the militancy-hit districts of Motihari, Darbhanga, Samastipur and Madhubani, the worry is real.”

Prasad’s objectives are simple: Should the administration deny him permission for the rally, he could always blame Kumar, who had slept with the enemy (read: BJP) for 17 long years. And if he is allowed, he’ll emerge as the only man with a huge following, who can dare Modi.

BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi said, “Lalu can try his tricks, as much as he can. But what lies in store for him is that he’ll be exposed as the puny man that he is compared to Narendra Modi.”

He said, “We expect at least five lakh people to converge at Muzaffarpur from the entire Mithilanchal, Tirhut and Champaran regions. Can Lalu match that?”

Modi, Kumar’s former deputy, didn’t let his former boss lightly either. He challenged Kumar to “hold another rally at the same venue so that it becomes clear what his (Kumar’s) standing is”.

RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav, however, said the claim that the RJD rally aimed at upsetting Modi was not correct. “If they have the right to hold a rally, so do we.”

But what is on Prasad’s mind? It looks like a clear — but not very simple –long-term political strategy: Prasad designed the move as a redux of his defiance of L K Advani’s rath yatra in 1990, which pitch-forked him as the leader of Muslims across India.

So, whether the Muzaffarpur ground is denied to him or not, Prasad devised it in such a way that he wins in either case. And that’s the gambit.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has come up with a canny plan to come out on top again – by taking on Modi
* One of the youngest parliamentarians at 29, Lalu Prasad became the chief minister of Bihar in 1990.
* His fall from grace came in 1997, when he was arrested for alleged complicity in the fodder scam and had to step down from the post.
* On October 3, 2013, Prasad was expelled from Parliament and debarred from elections after his conviction in the case.
* Looking for ways to become relevant to national politics again, Prasad picked up the most worrying factor to secular parties – the rise of Narendra Modi.
* He sought permission to hold a rally in Muzaffarpur the day Modi is to  add-ress a rally in the town.
* If he doesn’t get the permission, he can play the martyr and even accuse CM Nitish Kumar, another rival, of favouring the saffron party.
* Prasad knows Kumar is sensitive about his 17-year-long alliance with BJP.
* If he gets the permission, taking on Modi may pitch-fork him again to the height that he achieved by opposing L K Advani in 1990.


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