Down maybe, but far from out: What the future holds for Lalu Prasad
Lalu Prasad maybe battling the fodder scam and income tax raids against his family members but the RJD chief is brushing all that aside as he organises the opposition against the BJP, starting with a rally next monthindia Updated: Jul 06, 2017 18:50 IST
In the autumn of what has been an impressive political career, the inimitable Lalu Prasad is facing big trouble. The equation with alliance partners – Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) and the Congress – is looking shaky and there is talk of a possible collapse of the Bihar government in which his party is a senior partner.
The income-tax raids against his family members – daughter Misa Bharti and son Tejashwi Yadav -- have apparently dealt a body blow to his “pro-poor” leader image.
He himself is battling the fodder scandal involving large-scale embezzlement of government funds. He had to step down as a member of Parliament and was barred from electoral politics for at least six years on being found guilty in one of the cases in 2013. He has appealed the guilty verdict but his legal troubles are far from over.
In a smart political move, Kumar and Prasad sunk their political differences and joined hands to successfully contain a resurgent BJP in the 2015 Bihar election.
In February this year, RJD workers launched a campaign to replace Kumar with young Tejashwi as the chief minister.
To counter the move, Kumar came out with a series of initiatives, such as the prohibition, to consolidate his position. Among themselves, Kumar and Prasad are still rivals, pursuing different political paths.
But will they – or can they – unmake the Bihar alliance at this stage? Or, is this just a monsoon turbulence that will blow over?
On the surface, both Prasad and Kumar are saying the alliance is rock solid. In recent days, both have told party workers to refrain from loose comments. Prasad is understood to have asked senior party colleague and former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh to stop targeting Kumar.
For his part, Prasad is unlikely to rock the alliance boat. The future of his “secular politics” in the run-up to the 2019 general election – as also the political future of his children – depends on his success (or failure) in keeping the alliance intact.
At present, neither the RJD nor JD (U) is in a position to take on the might of the BJP.
In coming months, the RJD chief, without playing second fiddle to Kumar, is likely to take steps to consolidate his vote base among the Yadavs and Muslims. At the same time, he will also attempt to create a national platform for anti-BJP “secular parties”.
Next month, Prasad is organising an opposition rally at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are among those expected at the “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” (chase away BJP to save the country) rally.
Can’t write him off
Given his sense of repartee, as also his mass base, it is not easy to write off Prasad.
Since 1998, the RJD chief’s legal battles and political journey have moved simultaneously. Fearing a backlash from the RJD cadre, the BJP, apparently, is wary of unsettling Prasad beyond a point.
At the same time, a possible decision by Kumar to walk out of the alliance will come with the burden of being labelled the “wrecker” of the “secular cause”. At the moment, Prasad’s case does not appear as hopeless as it seems.