Indian politics has always been unpredictable. But the fact was driven home afresh in north Bihar’s Saran division just as the rest of the country was busy writing the political obituary of Lalu Prasad and his RJD.
Minutes after the five-year jail term of Prasad was pronounced in Ranchi, the little town of Chhapra began seething. And their verdict? Nothing less than a statewide sympathy wave for Prasad.
They should know. After all, the locals had earned their reputation on “Lalu lathis” (bamboo sticks) and their acumen has been honed on volatile street politics and decades of bitter battle at the hustings,
“It is a conspiracy by the Congress and the JD(U). But the people will not respond to them, especially after this backstabbing,” said Anirrudh Singh, a contractor.
Knots of people stood around, jamming the roads. Bazaars, television shops or tea stalls, there was only one topic of discussion – the future of Prasad, his family and the party.
Most are yet to grasp the enormity of the verdict. But ask if the RJD chief is finished and they grow belligerent. “The RJD survived the last time he was in prison and it will survive this time too,” insisted Sudama Rai, a grocery store owner.
“Bihar politics is personality driven and who is better than Laluji?” asked Ayodhya Singh, a farmer from Gopalpur village. “Even if he doesn’t contest elections again, he will work from behind the scenes, like Sonia Gandhi. He will remain a kingmaker.”
At the Nagarpalika Chowk, Khushboo Tea Stall, the haunt of government employees, witnessed debates as hot as the beverage served.
Senior advocate Shravan Kumar Pandey summed it up well: “The public sentiment is divided, but Lalu’s supporters will not go away. They will stand by him through thick and thin. This is what counts more in politics.”
Gopalganj sees a conspiracy
Igrasan Rai, 80, hasn’t eaten anything since Monday, when his younger brother RJD chief Lalu Prasad was convicted by a CBI court. On Thursday afternoon, he was sitting under a giant peepal tree in the ancestral village of the former Bihar CM, 170 km from Patna, when he learnt about the sentencing.
“They all conspired against my little brother and sent him to jail. I could not do anything to save him,” Igrasan said, as the other villagers flocked to him to offer their sympathies.
Lalu’s nephew Ramanand Rai told HT how the entire village had been praying for Lalu at the local temple.
“Whatever you see here — piped water supply, referral hospital, registry office, SBI branch, roads, railway station, block office and police station-all are my uncle’s gifts to the place,” he said.
Four kilometres from Phulwaria, in Rabri Devi’s village Selarkala, all was quiet. “Everyone has gone to Patna as our father has been hospitalised. This (the sentencing) is a stroke of bad luck. But my sister is a strong woman,” said Rabri’s sister Pana.