Hindutva protagonists haven’t pardoned Lalu Prasad for two things: his strident refusal to do business with them and the “sacrilege” of stopping L.K. Advani’s Ramrath yatra in the early 1990s in Bihar. There is also perhaps a third reason for their visceral distaste of the RJD chief: his defence of Sonia Gandhi when Sushma Swaraj threatened to crop her hair if she were to take up the prime ministership she rejected in 2004.
Lalu quoted Tulsidas to puncture Sushma: “Moh na naari, nari key roopa, pangaari yeh riti anoopa (No one woman, appreciates the beauty of another).”
He again had the Opposition on the mat when it made light of Rahul Gandhi’s speech hinged on the travails of a village girl, Kalawati. “These are the names we give our daughters in the countryside. You make fun because you are used to Dumpy-Pumpies.”
No prizes then for guessing why Lalu never figures as a potential ally on the BJP’s radar. He’s to them what the CPM or the Congress is to the saffron parivar. An anathema!
In contrast, there isn’t a single regional leader who hasn’t cohabited with the BJP. The anti-Brahmin DMK junked its moorings and picked up stake in the NDA in 1999. As much hitched to the saffron-bandwagon were the likes of
Chandrababu Naidu, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mamta Banerjee.
For its part, the saffron outfit assigned Hindutva poster-boy Narendra Modi to mollycoddle Jayalalithaa before hearing the electorate’s 2009 verdict.
She was acceptable despite her “unpardonable sin” of putting the Kanchi Shankaracharya behind bars in a murder case. Mulayam Singh and Mayawati have also had their torrid moments with the Sangh offshoot but not Lalu.
That’s what makes him a unique, nay, a hugely utilitarian ally of any secular formation.
Anti-Congressism is the natural corollary of an ascendant Congress. So never mind the RJD’s reduced numbers. Tactically, the Congress would be better off with Lalu by its side when the Left is sulking, the SP smoldering and the BJP itching for a personality transplant with Sushma as its leader in the Lok Sabha some months down the line.
One statement by Lalu urging Karunanidhi to be reasonable would have outweighed a thousand media leaks against the DMK’s outlandish demand for nine Central ministers against 19 MPs.
But the Jury is split on whether Lalu should be on board. Advocates of his return to the UPA see no conflict between that happening and the Congress reconstructing base in Bihar. “His induction as a post-poll ally will mean no assurance of a future election tie-up,” said a Congress leader. He saw “political logic” in co-opting Lalu as a “battle-tank” against future anti-Congress line-ups.
For Sonia, the call indeed is difficult. If made to sit out, the former student of the Lohia school wouldn’t be a bench warmer for long.