Saving RJD: Rabri assumes charge on shaky ground

Just when the critics started saying that RJD will disintegrate in the absence of Lalu, Rabri Devi came in front of the media today and announced that she and her sons will run the party, just like “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are guiding the Congress’.

Just when the critics started saying that RJD will disintegrate in the absence of Lalu, Rabri Devi came in front of the media today and announced that she and her sons will run the party, just like “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are guiding the Congress”.

“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 said.

After Lalu was convicted, the RJD, which he ran like family, is at a crucial juncture. Although the old supporters of Lalu within the party say that he will be able to run the party from jail as he did when Rabri Devi was chief minister, RJD will need a face.

Rabri, who has always been pushed to the forefront of Bihar politics due to the circumstances, was made the chief minister of the state overnight in 1997 after Lalu was chargesheeted in the fodder scam. She ruled the state for consecutive three terms from 1997 to 2005.

The period saw her changing from a stammering women to someone coming out of her husband’s shadow and independently addressing media and huge rallies in the state.

Rabri had gone missing from public life after she lost the Assembly elections in 2010. But Lalu ensured her return in the legislative space by nominating her in the Bihar Legislative Council last year.

It is to be noted that Rabri is not an office bearer of the party. Besides being Lalu Yadav’s wife, she is a mere member of the party and Bihar’s legislative assembly. But at least she has a stature of a senior party member.

She assumes 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.”

However, this time he left the party in chaos for his way was stopped by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who doesn’t want to settle for old-school Lalu and want a “development man” by his side.

Lalu Prasad’s biggest challenge at the moment is to keep his party relevant in his absence. While the political situation in Bihar following BJP-JD-U break-up looks ripe for return of Lalu Prasad to the centrestage, his team has to walk the extra mile to exploit the political faultlines.

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 Prasad Singh who are better equipped. Triggering an intra-party democratic dissent is the least that Lalu would want in his absence.

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