Lalu Prasad in prison better for RJD’s electoral prospects

The strong Yadav-Muslim consolidation is worrying the NDA in Bihar. Photo: PTI

The hope of the opposition to see jailed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad out on bail got shattered again on Wednesday when the Supreme Court rejected his bail petition. Though the news has come as a serious setback to the party and his family members ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, experts say it is most likely to hugely benefit the RJD by way of consolidation of his fellow castemen Yadav and Muslim voters who roughly account for 15 and 16 percent votes respectively in Bihar. Past records show the RJD has fared well whenever Lalu has been in jail.

Lalu had become the chief minister of Bihar in March 1990 soon after his Janata Dal won the local assembly elections. Hardly had he settled on his chair when BJP leader LK Advani started his nation-wide Ram Rath Yatra seeking the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. The yatra which began from Somnath on September 25, 1990 was scheduled to have concluded at Ayodhya where the disputed Babri mosque once stood. However, on October 23, when Advani’s chariot reached Bihar, Lalu got him arrested and seized his rath upon which he had been travelling for a month. He was arrested on October 23 the same year.

The arrest made Lalu a national hero overnight with the Muslim community throwing their full weight behind him. With Muslims on his side, Lalu then got his fellow caste men yadavs together and then formed a powerful political equation which was later known as M-Y equation. Banking on this combine, Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi ruled Bihar for 15 years by turns until they were ousted from power in 2005. Even though the RJD has been out of power for the past 14 years, this equation remains very much alive for the simple reason that Lalu has not changed his stand towards “communalism” and continues ferociously opposing the BJP’s brand of politics. The denial of bail to him, thus, has obviously shocked his supporters but luckily they have the opportunity now to express their anger by pressing the EVM buttons and the RJD leadership hopes the rejection of Lalu’s bail will reap bumper electoral harvest this poll season.

Lalu’s younger son, Tejashwi Yadav, who has been single-handedly leading the party poll campaign in his father’s absence made his intention very much clear when he appealed to the masses to deliver their own judgment in the case. “I have come to seek justice from you since there is neither the date problem nor any hearing in your court. There is only judgment in the people’s court,” Tejashwi told a rally in Bihar, shortly after the apex court rejected his father’s bail.

Experts too say the bail rejection could work wonder for the opposition Grand Alliance since this comes at a time when the elections are in progress. “The denial of bail to Lalu Prasad will create a sympathy wave in his favour and will result in huge consolidation of Yadav-Muslim votes which have been rallying behind him for years,” said a poll observer.

What has further annoyed the Yadav community members is that Lalu was repeatedly denied bail by the court—first by the Jharkhand High Court and then by the Supreme Court, while the same court had earlier granted bail to Dr Jagannath Mishra on health grounds in the same fodder scam case.

The Yadav community people are also angry at the way the CBI strongly opposed Lalu’s bail plea in the court arguing he could indulge in political activities if he is let out. “By the same token, Dr Mishra should have stayed away from political activities but he got his book released by former President Pranab Mukherjee and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi in January this year and has been regularly issuing political statements to the Press. Even today he profusely praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and added India could become world’s number three power in the next five years owing to the massive development works launched by the former,” commented an RJD leader.

Yadav voters are also displeased over the manner in which police have been regularly conducting raids at his paying ward in Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi where Lalu is undergoing multiple health-related treatments under judicial custody. Even the food being served to him is being checked apprehending someone might have smuggled mobile phone in it, leaving his supporters hugely upset. The routine raids at his ward increased shortly after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told a news channel that Lalu stays in touch with the outside world through cell phones.

Finally, the way his younger son Tejashwi was not allowed to meet him at the hospital too has not gone down well among his supporters who describe it as the “lowest kind of political vendetta. His son had reached the hospital a bit late in the weekend as his visit got delayed due to his election campaign. Such incidents are likely to help the RJD gain much in the Lok Sabha elections.