Long Way to Go for Lalu before Making a Comeback
By Ajay Kumar | Published: 19th December 2013 01:30 AM |
After walking out of jail, Lalu Prasad has certainly generated a sense of confidence among the RJD rank and file, but has a long way to go before making a political comeback.
Though still one of the key political figures in Bihar, Lalu has had a series of electoral debacles in which he first lost power in the state and then his perch at the Centre.
It has been long since one heard the earthy catchphrase: “Jab tak samose mein Alu rahega, tab tak Bihar mein Lalu rahega.” (Lalu will remain Bihar’s king as long as there’s potato in samosa).
Once a popular RJD slogan, it was coined during Lalu’s heyday as the Chief Minister.
But Nitish Kumar’s emergence, orchestrated by his erstwhile ally BJP, changed it all. The popularity of samosa, however, remained as eternal as ever but Lalu’s waned.
After Lalu’s release from the Birsa Munda jail, the air in Ranchi on Monday and in Patna on Tuesday was thick with the same slogan, albeit with a minor tweak: “Jab tak Bihar mein Alu rahega, tab rak Bihar mein Lalu rahega.” (Lalu will remain Bihar’s king as long as there’s potato in the state).
Analysts say this could be the beginning of the “remaking” of Lalu. A lot has happened while the RJD chief was busy with his legal troubles, which have robed him of not only his Parliament membership, but also his right to contest elections in the next six years.
After parting ways with the BJP, Lalu’s bete noir Nitish has been aggressively wooing Muslims – not just the most backward among them – who were traditional RJD supporters and constitute 16.5 percent of the state’s population.
Nitish’s consistent diatribes against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have generated some response among Muslims.
The upper castes such as Bhumihar, Rajput, Brahmin and Kayasth – they form 16 percent of the population – being with the BJP, Nitish needs the support of Muslims and the backward castes to win an election. Voters from his own Kurmi community (2.5 percent) are no match for Lalu’s solid Yadav vote bank, which accounts for 13 percent of the population.
If the RJD can stitch together the 13 percent Yadav votes, 16 percent Muslim votes and Ram Vilas’ Paswan votes, there will be no stopping a Lalu comeback.
Modi’s attempt at splitting Lalu’s Yadav vote base by mentioning Gujarat’s mythical connection with the Yadav community at the Hunkar rally seems to have had no effect.