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SC ruling against Lalu Prasad: Political equations may be redrawn in Bihar

Political observers say that the latest ruling could be a death knell to Lalu Prasad’s political career.

analysis Updated: May 08, 2017 13:15 IST
Vijay Swaroop
Vijay Swaroop
Hindustan Times, Patna
Fodder Sacm,Lalu Prasad,Supreme Court ruling in Fodder Scam
The Supreme Court reinstated criminal conspiracy charges against Lalu Prasad in a fodder scam case on May 8, 2017. (Arvind Yadav/ HT File )

Supreme Court’s Monday ruling directing former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad to stand trial in a criminal conspiracy case related to the fodder scam has opened up a proverbial Pandora’s Box in the politically volatile state.

The decision may result in political equations being redrawn in Bihar.

Though Prasad’s lawyers downplayed the ruling’s implications saying it meant little for the former CM already barred from electoral politics after being convicted in one of the six fodder cases lodged against him, political observers said the latest ruling could be a death knell to his political career .

It is a setback for Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) which had been trying to revive its political fortunes. In the 2015 assembly polls, the RJD won 81 seats and went on to form a coalition government with chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) which won 71 seats.

The SC ruling is bound to leave the RJD once again without a leader. The party is also without a second rung leadership though two of Prasad’s sons – Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav are ministers in Nitish Kumar-led cabinet. Only recently, during the RJD’s Rajgir conclave in the first week of May, Lalu gave a hint that Tejashwi could take over the mantle from him.

But many within the RJD feel that Tejashwi “doesn’t have the stature to match Lalu”.

However, party leaders feel, the situation is not as bad as it was during 2015, when Lalu surrendered at Ranchi. The party was going through the worst phase – it was out of power and RJD had virtually been decimated in the political arena. “Now, two of his sons are ministers and the eldest daughter is a Rajya Sabha MP. The party will not break,” said a party leader.

“The party, will now fallback on chief minister Nitish Kumar to support its alliance partner and lend support to the alliance,” said another senior party leader.

For the JD (U), it is a win-win situation as the RJD will not be in a position to exert pressure on the government. A JD (U) leader, not wishing to be quoted, said the chief minister will be freer now to run the administration.

Further, the audio tape expose of Lalu’s purported conversation with criminal-turned-politician Mohd Shahabuddin, may give an opportunity for the JD (U) to review its ties with the RJD. It is an open secret that both JD (U) and the RJD had not enjoyed the best of moments during the last 18 months of their rule.

The apex court decision also comes in the backdrop of a situation when the opposition BJP is going hammer and tongs against Lalu and his two sons by levelling allegations of corruption against them.

The SC verdict is also likely to affect the RJD’s prospects in 2019 parliamentary polls and assembly elections to follow the year after.

First Published: May 08, 2017 13:15 IST