Arguments begin to seal Lalu’s fate

The arguments began in the Special CBI Court of Pravas Kumar Singh and it is expected that the sentence will be delivered by 2.30 pm.

The defence has begun its arguments on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Bihar chief minister Jagannth Mishra and 44 others convicted in fodder scam case.

The hearing began at 11 am in a Special CBI court in Ranchi on Thursday. The sentence will be pronounced to the convicted men through video conferencing in the Birsa Minda Central Jail of Ranchi.

The arguments began in the Special CBI Court of Pravas Kumar Singh and it is expected that the sentence will be delivered by 2.30 pm.

According to legal experts, Lalu Prasad could be sentenced to a jail term of four to seven years. His lawyer told reporters that he would seek a minimum sentence.

The court of Pravas Kumar Singh had found Lalu guilty along with 45 others in case RC 20A/96 on Monday. Besides Lalu, the court had also convicted another former Bihar CM, Jagannath Mishra, and sitting JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma. They are presently lodged at the Birsa Munda Central jail along with other fodder scam convicts.

The Special CBI court had granted bail to eight of the convicts as they had been sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment, a prison term that allows the convict to move for bail in the same court.

Meanwhile, sources in RJD said that former Union minister and RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta and several other leaders yesterday met Lalu in jail. With the UPA withdrawing the ordinance, Lalu’s political career is almost sealed. Reportedly, Lalu is said to have made extensive arrangements to make sure that his party runs without hiccups.

Following his conviction, Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi had said that she and his sons will run RJD in her husband’s absence. “As Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are guiding Congress, which their ancestors had created so too we will provide strength to RJD to keep it strong,” the three time chief minister of Bihar had said. She assumed the charge on the logic that it was Lalu Prasad who “created and nourished” the party.

Lalu had broken away from the Janata Dal to form his own party. It came at a time when he was charged by CBI in its investigation and had the sword of being sent to jail hanging on him. Interestingly, he was a supporter of then at centre IK Gujaral’s United Front government. In fact, he was the person who shaped two UF governments, one of Deve Gowda and another IK Gujaral’s.

Nonetheless, the Bihar unit of Janata Dal merged with RJD for their leader was Lalu.

Ironically, he was supported by the Congress when he installed Rabri as CM. Political commentator Sanjay Singh applauds Lalu’s success in building a “long-term camaraderie with the Congress through the past two decades, beginning with Sitaram Kesri and then with Sonia Gandhi and nearly even getting his way in forcing through an ordinance passed by the UPA and designed specifically to protect his political career.”

Lalu’s son, Tejaswi Yadav, has been very composed and calm during the whole matter. He has not only shown political correctness in his actions, he has also shown the promise of a good leader. But he is too young and inexperienced to take the leash.

Moreover, his own senior party leaders, some of whom are ready to call his mother their leader, are not ready to accept him as a leader as of yet. Raghuvansh Prasad, in his brief to the media simply dismissed speculations of his ascendance as heir apparent. “Tejaswi Yadav is a young leader. There are several other young leaders in the party,” he reportedly said. “Laluji is our leader. Now, when he is in jail, all party workers and other leaders will fight together to tackle this challenge,” he added.

Several other statements from the senior party members have till now only strengthened the idea that no one is to accept anything less than Lalu. Both Rabri and Tejaswi lack his style of working, wit and political acumen. The sharp tongue that was Lalu’s identity is not their forte. It will not be surprising if Tejaswi will be pushed to the helm of party affairs later on.

There are senior leaders like Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Ghulam Ghaus, Iliyas Hussain, Ram Kripal Yadav, Samrat Chhaudhary, Prabhunath Singh and Raghuvansh Prasap Singh who are better equipped. Triggering an intra-party democratic dissent is the least that Lalu would want in his absence.

With Lalu’s sentencing, they might look towards upping their ante in the state.

Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had said on the day of Lalu’s conviction that his disqualification for the House, as per the Supreme Court, will be considered only after the final sentencing takes place. The formalities involved in the process are yet to be worked out.

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