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Lalu Woos Left at the Cost of Shahabuddin, Extends Olive Branch to NDA Dissidents

Stung by Nitish Kumar’s decision to dump the alliance and form a new government with old ally BJP, the RJD, under the leadership of Lalu’s younger son and former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, is trying to garner support from other parties.

Alok Kumar | CNN-News18dmalok

Updated:December 8, 2017, 6:14 PM IST
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Lalu Woos Left at the Cost of Shahabuddin, Extends Olive Branch to NDA Dissidents
File photo of RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav with his son Tejaswi Yadav (Image: PTI)
Patna: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is considering expanding the Mahagathbandhan by forging an alliance with Left-wing parties and is also eyeing NDA dissidents Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi to counter Nitish Kumar and a surging BJP in Bihar.

In what could be termed as major shift of approach, RJD is ready to sideline criminal turned politician Mohammad Shahabuddin to address the grievances of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

Shahabuddin had represented the RJD four times in the Lok Sabha before being debarred from contesting elections in 2009. RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav had projected him as party’s Muslim face ever since he won from Siwan assembly seat in 1990.

Stung by Nitish Kumar’s decision to dump the alliance and form a new government with old ally BJP, the RJD, under the leadership of Lalu’s younger son and former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, is trying to garner support from other parties.

With Congress already by its side, the RJD is trying to woo CPI(ML), which has three members in the assembly. Aware that CPI (ML) would never side by it unless Shahabuddin gets sidelined, the RJD seems willing to part ways.

Party’s chief spokesman Shakti Yadav told News18, “Shahabuddin is behind the bars and can’t fight elections. So that chapter is closed in a way. He is not an issue when a larger platform needs to be built to fight BJP. You can understand what I mean.”

“When we organized Bhajpa Bhagao-Desh Bachao Rally in Patna, CPI (ML) also extended support. This is the need of the hour - to be united and fight the unholy alliance of JDU and BJP,” he said.

CPI (ML) state secretary Kunal stopped short of saying any talks have taken place with the RJD but agreed that an alliance with RJD is not out of the question.

“For it to happen, RJD needs to do some course correction. A Criminal like Shahabuddin is not the only issue. RJD should come out on the streets to fight for the cause of people. We feel constitutional set-up of the country is under attack. This is a reality. But for coming together RJD should show some serious intent,” he said.

Bitter History

When RJD was growing its base in Bihar, Lalu had tied-up with CPI and CPM but CPI-ML never joined the alliance. Bitterness with the RJD grew after Lalu purportedly engineered a split in CPI-ML. Having a similar vote base, RJD planned to eat into the pie of CPI(ML), which was a force leading the poorer sections of Bhojpur, Siwan, Arwal, Jehanabad and in a few other southern districts.

In a tactical move, the RJD backed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and many CPI-ML workers were killed in the armed struggle. However, CPI(ML) succeeded in overpowering MCC in the long run.

It all happened during 1990s when Bihar witnessed many massacres on caste lines and CPI(ML) was pitched against Ranveer Sena, representing upper castes. Even during that period Lalu, a leader of social justice, tacitly supported Ranveer Sena. Lalu famously said in the assembly, “I will die but not allow CPI(ML) to grow.”

Fearful of losing its base in central Bihar, Lalu aligned with Mohammad Shahabuddin, who had emerged as a leader and protector of land owners in Siwan and adjoining districts and took CPI(ML) head on. In the ensuing bloody war, JNU student union leader Chandrashekar was killed in 1997 by sharp shooters allegedly at the behest of Shahabuddin.

Since then CPI(ML) and Shahabuddin supporters don’t see eye to eye. Now, it is easier for the RJD to dump Shahabuddin on technical grounds as he can’t fight elections. In 2014 elections, Shahabuddin’s wife Heena fought on an RJD ticket but lost by a huge margin. So, the RJD leadership can share this seat with a friendly party.

However CPI (ML) leader Kunal denied any such talk on seat sharing and said elections are distant yet. He said before any such deliberations, they will try to unite left parties first.

Unease among NDA leaders

The Lalu camp is also trying to cash in internal differences within the NDA. “You can see how Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Kushwaha are voicing anger against the Nitish Kumar government. All is not well within even within his own party JD(U),” RJD leader Shakti Yadav claimed.

Manjhi is said to be annoyed after his party was not given representation in the Nitish cabinet and his ‘Z plus’ security cover was withdrawn by the Centre recently.

He has openly critcised Nitish for completely failing to implement prohibition law and defended Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the Somnath temple row. On the other hand, Kushwaha, a junior HRD minister at the Centre, attacked Nitish for what he said was a deteriorating education system in the state.

However, reservation seems an issue over which Manji, Kushwaha and even some Dalit leaders of JD(U) have cornered Nitish. Interestingly, it was Nitish who started the debate by saying that he supports reservation in private sector. He, in a way, tried to be a flag bearer for the movement, but it has boomeranged.

Not only Manjhi and Kushwaha, but his own party leaders Uday Narayan Chaudhary and Shyam Razak have demanded Nitish pass a bill in the assembly and send it to the Centre. The RJD has extended support to them in a bid to ensure the support of Muslims and Yadavs, which would be a formidable caste combination.
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