Millennium Post

Why flattering Congress might be a mistake for jailed Lalu

If Rahul Gandhi’s gate-crashing into Congress’s own Ideas Inc department, and saying his government was wrong in trying to save convicted MPs and MLAs through an ordinance, were moves that eventually strips Lalu Prasad Yadav of his membership in Lok Sabha, Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is not making the displeasure public as yet.

Call it political compulsion, prescience, jugglery or whatever, the RJD is playing its cards in the same game of political rummy it has played over the last few years. Whatever Lalu or his core team (if he has one outside the family, that is) might believe, the party is sending out the signal that Lalu going to jail will do little to harm the bonhomie between his party and the Congress.

According to media reports, RJD leaders are blaming the BJP and JD(U), the two earlier allies in the state, for Lalu’s conviction. In a skewed sort of way, an RJD leader has blamed the BJP’s decision to oppose the ordinance, which opposed Supreme Court’s order to disqualify all lawmakers convicted by court for a minimum of two years in jail.

‘When the idea was mooted it got support from all parties. But when it reached the President for approval, it occurred to the BJP and JD(U) that Lalu Prasad ji will be the first to fall prey to this SC ruling. So, they immediately started creating a ruckus and opposing the Congress ordinance,’ an RJD leader was quoted in a Firstpost report.

The same leader, or any other RJD leader for that matter, though, was cagey about criticising Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to the ‘utter nonsense’ of an ordinance. Likewise, the Congress, now seen to be cozying up to Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) after the latter parted ways with the BJP-led NDA with Narendra Modi’s ascent toward the top, is hedging on all questions relating to the former Bihar CM’s stint in jail and his possible disqualification as a Lok Sabha member. (While Lalu will spend a couple of weeks in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda jail, the CBI court will announce the sentence on his, and the 44 others convicted in the Rs 37-crore fodder scam of 1996 on October 13.)

Lalu’s sons have also reportedly called his conviction a political conspiracy – and in all likelihood will be termed one hatched by the BJP and JD(U). But why two erstwhile lovers would get back together to conspire against a man who by all reckoning is set to be a distant third in the polls – yes, going even by the RJD’s grand margin of victory in the recent by-election for Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat that the party won by 1.37 lakh – is something not many are spelling out.

Even the logic that the JD(U) is eyeing for a tie-up with the Congress, and is thus allegedly conspiring to create differences between the Congress and Lalu, leaves at least one unanswered question. Why would BJP, which has nothing to gain if Nitish ties up with the Congress, play along?
But is RJD doing itself any favour by hanging on to the Congress coattail? If the RJD does not win beyond 5 or 6 seats, the party would be just as irrelevant to the Congress as it is now, for let’s face it, Lalu is nothing more than the joker in the UPA’s pack of cards – a joker more literally than in the rummy sense. And if Lalu and his men actually manage to make the former CM a victim in the eyes of the people of Bihar and manages a fair number of Lok Sabha seats whenever the general elections come calling, it would be the Congress who is likely to make the first advances.

Either way, Lalu and RJD keeping the ties intact with the Congress at the moment does not make much sense for it. Instead, it could do better to ape what the BJP, otherwise a pariah for Lalu since the Babri Masjid demolition days, is doing in Bihar: paint everyone with the same brush – and a dark brush it has to be – and then expect people to buy the argument that the other three are ganging up against Lalu, the Yadav.

That way, the caste factor, which has ostensibly stopped being an issue in Bihar politics since Nitish Kumar’s ascension with the development card, would come back in circulation. And by all reckoning, that still remains Lalu’s trump card.

On arrangement with Governance Now
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