Patna: Bihar’s ruling National Democratic Alliance leaders are uncomfortable over the return of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav to active politics as he has recently met top opposition leaders to form an united opposition front for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Sensing a political challenge from Lalu’s role in uniting the opposition parties on one platform, senior against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushil Kumar Modi objected to Lalu, who is on bail, taking part in active politics. “Lalu, who was convicted in fodder scam and currently on bail on health grounds, is becoming active in politics. The CBI should take notice of it,” said Sushil Kumar Modi, former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister, two days ago.
Sushil Kumar is a BJP Rajya Sabha MP and is considered the hardest critic of Lalu from back in the mid-90s. He expressed his unease over Lalu’s activity in politics saying that the CBI court would pronounce judgement in another fodder scam case, in which Lalu is an accused and he might face jail term again.
It was Sushil Kumar who demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) files an appeal in the Supreme Court soon after Lalu was granted bail by the Ranchi High Court in April this year.
The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) president in Bihar, Umesh Singh Kushwaha on Wednesday said Lalu should focus on his health first instead of playing politics and meeting different leaders. “Health should be his priority, not politics as Lalu is not well and suffering from several chronic diseases. In politics, Lalu and his party were rejected by the people long ago,” he said.
Earlier, JD-U spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had repeatedly targeted Lalu for playing active politics.
Both Sushil Kumar and Umesh Singh are not only worried over Lalu’s return to politics, but they have also exposed their restlessness due to the presence of the veteran politician.
There is little doubt that Lalu has been showing his keen interest in uniting opposition leaders and coming up with a new front to take on the BJP-led NDA at the national level. Hence, Lalu on Tuesday met Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) leader Sharad Yadav, an old socialist friend of his, a day after meeting Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav in Delhi.
Last week, NCP chief leader Sharad Pawar along with SP leader Ramgopal Yadav and Congress leader Akhilesh Prasad Singh met Lalu and they are expected to have discussed politics over a cup of tea.
Sources in the RJD in Bihar said that Lalu will meet Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri, DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin and Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Baherjee in the coming days. “Sooner or later, Lalu ji will meet Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to ensure a united opposition against the NDA.”
According to NDA leaders in Bihar, Lalu is capable of uniting the opposition and that will pose a big challenge to the BJP-led alliance in the state as well as at the centre.
“A free and active Lalu in politics is not good for the NDA because he understands how to make our task difficult. We easily won 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2020 Bihar Assembly polls when Lalu was behind the bars,” a BJP leader said.
The fear of Lalu continues to haunt NDA leaders in the state. “There is a strong fear in the ruling NDA that the return of Lalu ji in Patna from Delhi may see a change of power-politics in Bihar. They strongly suspect that two small allies of the NDA including HAM of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and VIP of Mukesh Sahni are likely to join hands with the RJD. It will seriously threaten the survival of the NDA government led by Nitish Kumar,” a senior JD-U leader admitted.
Last November, soon after the result of the state assembly polls, Sushil Kumar had alleged that while in jail, Lalu Prasad was trying to poach NDA MLAs in an attempt to topple the Nitish Kumar government.
Earlier, Sushil Kumar had accused Lalu of playing politics from jail in view of political comments made on the official Twitter handle of the RJD chief and urged the Central Bureau of Investigation to take note and apprise the court of his activities.
Senior RJD leader Bhai Virendra claimed it was not only Sushil Kumar Modi, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi too feared Lalu and his social justice politics. “The BJP has not forgotten how Lalu ji stopped Ram-Rath and arrested L K Advani for the sake of communal harmony and peace. They fear Lalu ji as he is the only leader who has been directly fighting against communal forces and never compromised on secular politics,” the RJD leader said.
The alarm was sounded by Lalu himself. In his first virtual speech after being granted bail, the ailing RJD chief on July 5, 2021 sent a strong political message to thousands of party leaders, workers and supporters, saying “Mit jayenge lekin jhukenge nahi (will be finished but will not bow).”
It was nearly after a gap of three and half years that Lalu Prasad, who was incarcerated in a Ranchi jail, got an opportunity to make a virtual speech to his party workers, supporters and followers across Bihar. He did not miss this chance to remind his supporters that he was most probably jailed under a conspiracy and was forcefully kept away from the state.
Like in the past, when the RJD supremo used to say that he would rather die than reach a compromise with the BJP, which he described as a “fascist and communal” force (he said this in August 2017 at the ‘BJP Bhagao Desh Bachao’ rally in Patna), he reiterated that there was no question of bowing before such forces.
Lalu, known for his rare acumen in ground politics, is in Delhi after being granted bail but he promised the party leaders and workers to visit Bihar soon. This has made the ruling NDA cautious.
Thousands of RJD leaders, workers and supporters are upbeat over the mere news that Lalu will be in Bihar soon. Their happiness lies in the fact that RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav time and again reminded them that the opposition Mahagathbandhan alliance including the RJD, the Congress and the Left parties missed the bus by a narrow margin to form the government in the state last year as the ruling NDA “manipulated” results of the state assembly polls and ensured to defeat some of RJD candidates with 13 to 17 votes.
In the state assembly, RJD emerged as the single largest party in the polls held last year in Bihar with 75 seats; the Grand Alliance missed the bus after falling short by a few seats as it got 110 seats. The ruling NDA won 125 seats in the elections.