Patna: With the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) expected to win only two seats in Bihar, the 17th Lok Sabha results may sound the end of Lalu era. The most famous denizen of Phulwaria in Bihar’s Gopalganj district Lalu Prasad, RJD president and former chief minister, is now serving a jail sentence in Ranchi with reported infighting in his family adding to the wipeout of his party.
The ignominious showing at the hustings also brings may also down the curtains on RJD and its election symbol, the lantern. The so called kingmaker who once dominated the state’s and national politics for close to two decades was finally brought down and jailed for his involvement in the ₹950 crore fodder scam.
RJD contested 20 seats this election as part of the ‘mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance with the Congress, which contested nine seats.
Prone to theatrics to grab headlines, whether posing for cameras in his vest or feeding his cows, he installed his wife Rabri Devi as Bihar’s chief minister in 1997. While the move was panned, Lalu continued to pull the strings, with his brother in laws Anirudh Prasad alias Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav running riot in the state. This brought the sobriquet of jungle raj to the state, a charge that Lalu and his son former deputy chief minister of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav have repeatedly defended.
Lalu who once was the unannointed king maker in Delhi donned the mantle of ‘social justice’ and created a core Muslim-Yadav support base. Once hailed for tasking power minister Raj Kumar Singh (when he was the district magistrate of Samastipur) with arresting L.K. Advani as he brought his rath yatra to Bihar, en route to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh from Somnath in Gujarat in 1990, the patriarch will first have to quell the rebellion in its ranks, with his elder son, Tej Pratap having a public fallout with his brother Tejashwi Yadav. There is also speculation that older daughter Misa Bharti, who is contesting from Patliputra against sitting BJP MP Ram Kripal Yadav, is unhappy as she believes the sons are being promoted more.
"The party was in disarray as Laluji was away. There was a lot of infighting," said a senior RJD leader requesting anonymity.
This is the first election in which Prasad didn’t campaign since launching the RJD in 1997. It’s also the first election he missed in more than 40 years since joining student politics in the 1970s. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1977 at the age of 29. He has since served as five-time MP, four-time MLA, Union railways minister, twice chief minister and Rajya Sabha member.
In 2014, the RJD won two seats, while BJP and its allies won in 31 seats in Bihar. The BJP alone won 22 seats, while its ally the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won in six seats and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) in three seats. There are a total 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
In the 2015 assembly elections, Prasad led the alliance that blocked the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) entry in Bihar. Given that state assembly polls in Bihar are likely to be held around November next year, it seems unlikely that the RJD may witness a revival.
“What is the need for lantern when there is round the clock electricity in Bihar," said Avdesh Kumar.
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