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Bihar’s ‘Hand of God’: Why Opposition Leaders are Lining up to Meet Lalu Prasad at Ranchi Hospital

Sources say that Lalu Prasad Yadav gets to pick three names as Jharkhand CM BJP’s Raghubar Das has ensured that the jail manual is strictly enforced as far as the number of visitors is concerned.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan, Marya Shakil@Rounak_T

Updated:March 12, 2019, 9:14 PM IST
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Bihar’s ‘Hand of God’: Why Opposition Leaders are Lining up to Meet Lalu Prasad at Ranchi Hospital
File photo of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
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Patna: On Bihar’s political chess-board, it seems Lalu Prasad Yadav is the opposition’s invisible ‘wazir’. Lalu, former state chief minister, may be far away from his home, but he is still setting the agenda for the politics in the state. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo is playing his cards from a place that has never been known for its political prowess — Ranchi.

The most recent jibe to dampen the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) efforts to mobilise its voters came on Sunday when he tweeted saying he could gather more people at a ‘paan shop’ than the NDA could at Patna’s Sankalp Rally.

Yadav has been meeting political leaders at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), where he is undergoing treatment. He was earlier convicted in the fodder scam, but due to health concerns had to be hospitalised at RIMS.

The hospital has been witnessing a long queue of opposition leaders from the neighbouring state. It is on Saturdays that most opposition leaders visit the political giant to firm up an alliance against the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance in the state.

In January, former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) president Jitan Ram Manjhi and former JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav had met Lalu. Saturdays in February, saw more leaders of the opposition alliance — the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leader and former union minister Upendra Kushwaha and the Vikasshil Insaan Party (VIP) leader Mukesh Sahani — lining up to meet the RJD chief.

RJD MLA Bhola Yadav informed News18 that Left leaders like D Raja and Sitaram Yechury have also met Yadav on successive Saturdays.

“There are hundreds of applications arriving every week with a request to meet him. Political leaders from opposition parties, his own MLAs and leaders, ticket seekers and even from those who want to come from different parts of Bihar just to meet him,” said Bhola Yadav, confirming that Ranchi’s RIMS happens to be the new political den for the RJD.

Sources say that Yadav gets to pick three names as Jharkhand CM BJP’s Raghubar Das has ensured that the jail manual is strictly enforced as far as the number of visitors is concerned.

Not Just Meetings

On February 3, 2019 when Congress president Rahul Gandhi decided to address the 'Jan Akanksha Rally' in Patna, Yadav knew that an opportunity like this had come about only after 1989. It was almost three decades earlier that Rahul's father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had addressed the rally in Bihar at the same venue.

Yadav could not have let this opportunity go. He instructed his son, Tejashwi Yadav, to share the stage with Gandhi without getting into a political alliance.

Sources in the RJD told News18 that Tejashwi’s presence at the rally was the result of his father’s advice only.

The political presence was merely to display opposition unity.

This is because the Congress party holds a grudge against him. He had single-handedly decimated the grand old party’s dominance in Bihar. He was challenged many a times by his own fellow socialist Lohiaite brethren. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda allegedly let loose the CBI against him during his tenure, at a time when Lalu Prasad was one of the tallest leaders at the Centre.

Moreover, the Congress's performance in the state is not much to write home about and the party has been confined to a small partnership in the alliances from time to time.

Speaking to News18, RJD leader and son of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, said, “He might not be here physically but he is in our thoughts. I miss his guidance, he is an institution in himself as far as his hold on understanding of grassroots politics and mass mobilising is concerned.”

He further elaborated that no one can claim that he is on par with him (Yadav) as far as managing the serious business of Indian politics in Hindi heartland is concerned. “There is plenty to learn from him but having said that I know that I have his genes in my blood and that gives me huge confidence,” he added.

Pincer Moment

The RJD certainly is the fulcrum of opposition unity with Lalu Yadav’s fixed votebank of Muslims and Yadavs firmly behind him — the constituency of 25 percent which has stood by him election after election. However, the state is staring at a leadership crisis. Nitish Kumar’s image of a man of good governance has taken a severe hit following the Muzaffarpur Shelter home scandal.

Political analyst Manisha Priyam, who tracks Bihar very closely, calls it “the Pincer moment of Bihar”. She says, “The State is facing its most severe leadership challenge at this moment. We have to think and reflect. This time the state of Bihar should have been having its most active politics. The children of the state need to be trained through skilled development, schools, colleges taken on to pathways of jobs, unfortunately, the only opportunity they have is to take the first train out of the Patna railway station.”

The state which has had the rich tradition of leadership. Jaiprakash Narayan’s home state, which defined the socialist movement, faces a leadership vaccum. This election will decide whether the Bihar politics can go beyond two of JP’s proteges: Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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