The rebellion by a group of RJD legislators on Monday was nothing less than a bolt from the blue for party chief Lalu Prasad, who had lately been on the verge of a big comeback in Bihar following his release from jail.
The numbers – despite the backtracking of nine of the 13 legislators – would leave the RJD depleted in the state assembly. But more importantly, it might adversely affect the party’s chances of an alliance with the Congress.
Reservations had always existed in the Congress camp – read party vice president Rahul Gandhi – about the fodder scam taint of the RJD chief. Now, with the RJD looking like a house of cards, a rethink in the Congress camp looks likely. And the beneficiary could be Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which had been looking rather cornered.
What might upset the chief minister’s applecart is the possibility of a forgery -- six of the turncoats have already claimed that they had not signed the letter sent to the Speaker and three more reaffirmed faith in the RJD later at night.
“It seems that the office of the Speaker is up to some mischief,” said senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui while parading the six before the media in the evening. Siddiqui himself had preferred not to switch sides, belying speculations that he was also in the mood to join the JD(U) for a Lok Sabha ticket from Madhubani.
On the other hand, Samrat Choudhary, who led the defection drive, said more party MLAs would join them. “This is just the beginning (of the exodus)”, he said.
The defections had been on the cards for the last few days – the clearest sign came on Sunday, when Choudhary had accompanied the chief minister to Khagaria for a local function.
For the last few months, Choudhary has been peeved with the RJD chief over his reluctance to give him a ticket from Khagaria.
The JD(U), despite the chief minister’s cautious response, is apparently ready to reward them. Some of the turncoat legislators would be given JD(U) ticket, others ministerial berths, indicate sources.