October 19, 2013

ENGAME LALU?


THE POLITICS IN BIHAR IN THE ABSENCE OF LALU


Courtesy: India Today

With all attempts of the government to overrule the judgment of the Supreme Court pertaining to convicted politicians biting the dust, following mass public anger and of course ‘timely’ intervention by Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav – the chief of the RJD and the former CM of Bihar became the first politician to be disqualified from the Parliament after being found guilty in the Fodder Scam. With this political heavyweight behind the bars for four years and unable to contest elections for the next six years (unless he gets relief from a higher court), it seems that it is the end of the road, both for the former Bihar strongman and his party. Lalu was hoping to rebuild his declining political fortunes after the break-up of the 17 year old alliance between the JD(U) and the BJP which had made him virtually irrelevant, first in state politics and then significantly reduced his influence at the Centre. In fact, the stunning victory of his candidate over the ruling combine’s nominee in the Maharajganj by poll by a margin of over one lakh votes was seen by many as the beginning of the RJD resurgence. However, with Yadav now languishing in the Birsa Munda in Jharkhand and Nitish breaking off all ties the NDA, the race for the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state is heating up.

A product of the protest against Emergency, Lalu is believed to have been close to JP. You see, even great leaders make blunders. In 1990, he burst into the limelight when he was made the CM of the state as a consensus candidate after disagreement between two factions of the Janata Party. A leader of the Yadav caste, he won the support of the Muslims after he arrested Lal Krishan Advani on route to Ayodhya during the Babri Masjid movement. With the backing of this MY (Muslim Yadav) support base, he emerged as a key player in the murky politics of New Delhi in the mid and late 90s. In fact, when he was sent in association with the Fodder Scam in 1998, he broke away from the Janata Dal to launch his own party – the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). As he was sent to jail, he audaciously made his wife Rabri the CM, remote controlling the affairs of Bihar from behind the bars. In 2000, in spite of the odds, he romped home to victory in Patna, with the help of the Left and the Congress. In 2004, he won 24 seats in the Lok Sabha, emerging as the second largest constituent member of the Congress led UPA. Yadav was made the Railway Minister; under him the department made profits for the first time in years without raising the prices. This was the highest point of his political career.

It seems that at around this time, power started going into his head. Taking the people for granted, no worthwhile development was recorded in Bihar in the Lalu era. Poverty continued to remain high, no jobs were created; crime rate was high whereas literacy was quite low. In the February 2005 state polls, as the public delivered a fractured mandate, the RJD and its allies fell well short of the majority. In the re-poll held some months later, Lalu was crushed as he ended up as on the third spot. The JD(U) and the BJP formed a coalition government under the leadership of Lalu’s bĂȘte noire Nitish Kumar. With Kumar delivering on fronts where Yadav failed in his regime, Bihar began recording significant growth. As the state marched ahead, Lalu was left far behind. After talks with Congress about seat sharing in the 2009 parliamentary elections failed, he joined hands with his rival Mulayum and another political joker – LJP’s Paswan to form the Fourth Front. The move backfired as his outfit bagged just 4 seats whereas the UPA came back to power with ease. After losing on his home turf, this embarrassing loss reduced his influence in Delhi. 2010 brought more bad news, the JD(U)-BJP combine won with more than three fourth of the seats, reducing the RJD to mere 22 with Rabri losing both the seats she contested. Many believed that the infamous split in the NDA could just be the opportunity that Lalu needed to re-invent himself in Bihar. However, with the jail sentence, it seems that it is a rather gloomy and a fitting end to an otherwise colourful career, based on caste based politics.

The end of Lalu and break-up of the JD(U) and the BJP has opened up the game. In Bihar which sends as many as 40 MPs to Lok Sabha - the third highest amongst the states, the fight is heating up and one can expect key political developments to take place in the run up to 2014 General Elections. The Nitish led JD(U) which broke all relations with the BJP is aiming to get the support of the Muslims. With several Congress leaders, including Rahul praising Kumar for his secular credentials, an alliance between the two cannot be ruled out. Reports suggest that UPA may have sacrificed Lalu to win the favour of the Bihar CM. The problem here could be the other JD(U) stalwart Sharad Yadav whose politics has been based on the anti-Congress plank. Meanwhile, in case neither the NDA nor the UPA are in a position to form the next government in New Delhi, the outfit will emerge as one of the architects of the Third Front and Nitish may well be the next PM of the country. The BJP is another strong player here; while enjoying the support of the Thakurs, it is also woo the Yadavs hard. After RaGa’s dream of a Congress revival in Bihar in 2010 ended in a disaster, the INC on its own is not in a position to pose any challenge. However, if it joins hand with the JD(U), things will be dramatically different. Allying with the RJD might be suicidal and LJP is in dire straits. Ram Vilas Paswan is virtually out of the race and it will be a miracle if he manages to get more than one seat.

Meanwhile, Tejaswi Yadav, the younger son of the RJD supremo is speculated to take over the party in 2014. Rabri has already said that she and her son will ‘manage’ the party, like ‘Sonia and Rahul’. Didn’t anybody tell her that INC was in a mess? The duo will try to leverage the sympathy factor to their advantage. And in a country like ours, it might work well. However, Tejaswi is new to politics. After warming the benches of the IPL side Delhi Daredevils for several seasons, this cricket enthusiast will find it difficult to make a mark for him, at a time when his family is well past its prime. Rabri’s dual defeats in the last election polls have signaled an end to her political ambitions. One should not be surprised in case, several leaders of the RJD, shift their allegiance to other outfits. However, the wily fox that he is, Lalu can never be written off. Remember his famous line ‘Jab tak hain Samose mein aloo, tab tak rahega Bihar mein Lalu’. In case, he comes out of jail before the elections, the wounded tiger will be stronger and more determined to do well. Even otherwise, while it may not be a force to reckon with in the absence of Yadav, the RJD is not history, at least not yet.



IMAGES


(1) Courtesy: India Today
Original: India Today - Fodder Scam Verdict likely to put abrupt full stop to Lalu's illustrious career (Link)