October 24, 2015

DO OR DIE...

Lalu Yadav - Facebook
While most political commentators dipped their pens in black ink and wrote the political obituary of former CM Lalu Prasad Yadav after his party was reduced to mere four parliamentary seats in the 2014 Union Polls, the 'unholy and unexpected' alliance between him and his bĂȘte noire - Nitish Kumar seems to have given the RJD supremo one more chance to remain relevant in a state which he dominated for nearly two decades. In the run up to the big polls, the split in the NDA was seen by many as the 'opening' that Lalu needed to stage a political comeback after being on the fringes for nearly five years and his conviction in the multi-crore Fodder Scam; unfortunately, the Modi wave was just too strong for him to regain his lost glory. However, the realignment of political forces in the state with the coming together of the former Janata Dal constituents to take on a resurgent BJP could well be the opportunity that has been eluding the Yadav leader for long. With the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Bihar 2015 has become a 'Do or Die' scenario for one of India's most colorful yet controversial politician.

Nobody understands the gravity of the situation more than Lalu himself. The astute politician that he is, the sheer number of 'sacrifices' that he has made in the last few months should make it clear how much importance the former Rail Minister attaches to the poll verdict. Firstly, in spite of his bitter rivalry with his one time comrade turned foe Nitish Kumar, the Yadav strongman agreed to a coalition with the latter's JD-U, the same party that has eroded Lalu's Muslim and lower caste vote base. Many were skeptical of such an alliance considering the bad blood between the two regional leaders and their ideological differences. However, Lalu on his part should be appreciated for holding on to 'Maha Ghatbandhan' in the wake of many differences. Secondly, aware of the popularity of the incumbent CM amongst the masses, the RJD supremo buckled under pressure, allowing the mega coalition to project Nitish as its CM nominee. This is so much different than the Lalu Prasad we have known over the years; remember, it was he who famously stalled Mulayum Singh Yadav's bid to become the PM back in the nineties. Not only this, he also agreed to fight the same number of seats as the JD-U, something that many believed was just not possible, more so after the RJD conceded the CM's chair to Nitish. Surely, the former CM has gone out of the way to ensure that his alliance remains strong in its battle against the NDA.

Lalu clearly understands his role in the campaign for grand alliance; his conviction in the Fodder Scam and the pathetic state of law and order in the state during his tenure as the CM make him the prime target of the BJP which has termed his days at the helm of affairs in Patna as 'Jungle Raj'. However, the RJD chief is the master in caste based politics, a factor that continues to resonate with the electorate here even today. No wonder than that he is playing the caste card to win over the voters. The recent comments by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat calling for the retrospection of reservation policy in the country and the spate in the killings of Dalits in the BJP ruled Haryana has given more ammunition for the Yadav strongman to train his gun at the saffron camp. Lalu has been the darling of the Muslims ever since he stopped Advani's Rath Yatra back in 1990 and he continues to flaunt his 'secular' credentials particularly in the wake of the Dadri lynching, hoping to stitch back his fabled Muslim - Yadav combination that was the base which catapulted him to three straight wins in the state. And in his vintage style, the Rashtriya Janata Dal boss has not shied away from attacking PM Modi even calling him a 'Brahm Pishchak' on one occassion.

Meanwhile, an indication of his declining clout in Bihar was evident from the defeat of his eldest daughter Misa Bharati from the Paliputra parliamentary seat in May last year. With his sons - Tej Pratap and Tejaswi in the fray for the state polls this time around, the stakes for Lalu Yadav are much higher. In case, the saffron alliance manages to sweep the state and the RJD fails to put up a good show, serious questions will be raised over the future of his party. In the past two years, several of the RJD's leaders including Ramkripal Yadav and Pappu Yadav have either deserted the outfit or have been shown the door. In case, the party fails to perform well in the scheduled polls, one can expect another exodus of the few remaining leaders from the party outside its first family. Not only will it relegate Lalu to the fringes, but will also take the gas out of the RJD's lantern. The Yadav strongman will certainly want his sons to have a good start in their political careers and for this to happen, a victory for the mega coalition in Bihar is essential.

Speaking to the media, Lalu had once remarked 'Jab tak rahega samose mein aloo, tab tak rahega Bihar mein Lalu'. While the starchy vegetable will continue to be a part of one of India's most famous snack for a long time, the November 12 verdict will decide the fate of the RJD chief and his party. Till then, we need to keep our fingers crossed.

P.S: I have started a new blog - Raajaniti (Link) dedicated to Indian politics. Henceforth, I will put up posts relating to Indian politics on both of these blogs. 

Also, I would request you to check out the new blog and please provide your valuable feedback.