RJD chief Lalu Prasad faces political isolation
New Delhi: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is staring at political isolation as top leaders and chiefs of opposition parties, including the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left Front, are unlikely to attend his rally scheduled to be held in Patna on 27 August.
The rally called “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” was being seen as an attempt by opposition parties to strengthen their unity ahead of the next general elections in 2019 and was in the pipeline for over a month. In the interim, however, the country saw a political turnaround with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) snapping ties with Prasad to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
According to Prasad, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and C.P. Joshi, and rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav will be attending the rally.
However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who are unlikely to attend the rally, could be conspicuous by their absence. Congress was in an alliance with the RJD in Bihar before Kumar joined hands with the NDA.
“It is unlikely that the top two leaders of our party will attend the rally. We have to also keep in mind whether top leaders of other opposition parties are attending or not. Our local state unit also feels that given that Bihar is facing one of the worst floods in recent times, Lalu Prasad should postpone the rally,” a senior Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.
Even BSP chief Mayawati is not attending the rally. “I had a talk with Mayawati. She said senior BSP leader Satish Mishra would come for the rally,” Prasad told reporters in Patna.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, which is the largest party of the Left Front, has decided to not attend the rally. “At a time when the entire state of Bihar is under water due to floods, it is not appropriate to politicize an issue. There has been no agenda that has been discussed for the meeting. The CPM is not likely to attend the meeting,” said a senior leader of the CPM, on the condition of anonymity.
Analysts said that corruption charges against Prasad are leading to this isolation.
“Slowly and gradually the support base of the opposition has shifted. Nobody wants to be aligned with a corrupt party. Corruption has already started eroding the support of Lalu Prasad. Things are not going to be very happy for him in the coming times. There are allegations against his children as well,” said Vijay Kumar, a Bihar-based political analyst and professor of political science at the Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, Bihar.
In the past few months, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income Tax department has stepped up their investigations against Prasad and his immediate family over various corruption charges.
So far Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed his attendance. “Party president Akhilesh Yadav will be visiting Patna on August 27 and will attend the rally organised by Lalu Prasad,” SP spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhury said on Monday.
Despite the support extended by Akhilesh Yadav, the party is not on the same page when it comes to forming a united anti-BJP opposition. Barely three days before the rally, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav said that he was against any such alliance.
Last week, another meeting of the opposition parties was called by rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, which saw 16 parties in attendance.