Lula and Lalu
There is a strange similarity between Brazillian Lula and Indian Lalu — despite their conviction both remain favourites, compares Arun Srivastava
Former President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, and the Indian symbol of social justice, former Chief Minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav, have one common feature. Like Lula, the Indian leader Lalu is also convicted for indulging in corrupt practices and, under the Indian law, he is not allowed to hold office. But that has not eclipsed his popularity. Instead, he has emerged as the key campaigner for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in favour of the anti-communal forces; that too, precisely after the recent by-election to the Araria Lok Sabha seat. Though Lalu was in jail, his name worked a miracle.
In the case of Lula, the rightist forces are out to finish him. What has been quite interesting is Lula, notwithstanding procedural objections raised by lawyers of the former leftist President of Brazil, continues to be convicted. Every effort is being made to send him to prison before the presidential campaign heats up. For the embarrassment of his rightist adversaries, Lula will not be imprisoned until the country's Supreme Court decides on April 4, whether to accept his request that he be allowed to exhaust his appeal process before landing in jail.
The Supreme Court had ruled in 2016 that defendants should begin serving prison sentences after their conviction was upheld on a first appeal. However, for ensuring justice to Lula, several members of the court are pressing to revisit that decision and perhaps reverse it. Nevertheless, Lula is determined to hit the streets of Brazil and campaign for the upcoming Presidential election, which will be held on October 7. Incidentally, a UN Human Rights Commission lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who is also a lawyer for the Queen of England, has said that these proceedings against Lula have violated the fundamental principles of law and it is an aberration of justice.
Upholding the conviction leaves the possibility that Lula will soon be jailed and he cannot be a candidate for the Presidential election since his appeal was not granted. Often questions are being asked about why he is campaigning for the Presidential run this October since the conviction was upheld. He could have decided not to campaign, but he probably sees it as an opportunity to fight against the capitalist and fascist forces. He knows that keeping away from campaigning will weaken the secular and communist forces.
The campaigning will also provide the opportunity to put his case before the peoples' court. Lula is going to register for the elections. He insists that he is in it to win it, and he's going to campaign. He's been on a southern tour of Brazil for the last week. He was in Santa Catarina a couple of days ago. Now he's in Parana. He will use the opportunity to prove that he has been framed; that he is innocent and he's going to win the elections and bring back the poverty alleviation programmes into Brazil.
With this firm commitment and dedication to the people, Lula will be seen running. Lula is the leading candidate in the elections right now. He is 41 per cent above anyone else. Despite the corruption charges, he is still well revered amongst folks across Brazil.
It is a coincidence that Lalu is also getting ready to campaign for the anti-BJP parties and forces. The current dispensation has been using all the resources at its command to ensure that he is denied bail by the court. But a Lalu in jail can torpedo the warship of any ruling party. Like Lula, he will continue to fight for justice and the possibility of the secular forces winning the elections.
Like Lula, he is also popular. The day Lalu was brought to the Delhi railway station for his treatment at AIIMS, all the porters were found to be missing from the station. They had in fact assembled before the bogey in which Lalu was travelling. They raised slogans in his support and against the present government. Lalu continues to be the main face of the opposition.
In a similar response, the people in Florianopolis were ecstatic to see Lula, with people crying, cheering, passing their hat so he could sign them. They raised slogans eulogising Lula. He is still very much a rock star figure, and he's going to remain that way whether he's in jail or not. The fact of the matter is that Brazil does not have anybody else who can really hold the people together, which is why Brazilians want to see him in the race.
Lula has to appeal to the Supreme Federal Court and also the Supreme Court of Justice, with the hope of one of them overturning his conviction. It's not going to be easy. Lalu too will have to approach the High Court and, finally, the Supreme Court to get a reprieve. Possibly, both may get a break.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)