Jail will not be new for former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad, who has spent time, held court, cooked food and virtually run the party and the state government from behind bars in his over four decade-long political career, leaders close to him said here.
"People may not be aware that he had spent more than two years in jail as a student leader in the early 1970s," said political activist Satya Narain Madan, who has known Lalu Prasad since the popular JP (Jaya Prakash Narayan-led) movement against the Emergency.
Nearly one and a half decades before he became chief minister in 1990, Lalu Prasad had named his eldest daughter MISA Bharti after the draconian act (Maintenance of Internal Security Act)under which he was booked in 1975, said Ghulam Ghaus, a Rashtriya Janata Dal legislator.
RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav said Lalu Pradesh, "forced to resign as chief minister in 1997 after he was framed in fodder scam under a conspiracy" spent 135 days in jail before he was released in December 1997. "Lalu Prasad emerged stronger after being jailed," he said.
The third time the RJD chief went to jail was in 1998 and the fourth time in 2000.
"When Lalu went to jail in 1997 in Ranchi (in undivided Bihar), RJD leaders flocked to him inside jail and he used to hold durbars and claimed to run government led by his wife Rabri Devi by proxy from behind the bars," recalled Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Sinha.
Lalu Prasad used to cook his food when he went to jail in Patna later, he added.
Observers say Lalu Prasad used his jail sentence in his favour by projecting it as a conspiracy by his rivals to weaken the social justice plank."Lalu is a master in encashing his jail journey... he had proved it time and again," said Ashok Kumar, who was junior to him in the student movement.
However, this time, the five year term jail term will be difficult for Lalu Prasad, as first he and his party are not in power either in the state or at centre and secondly, he is now 67 years old and suffering from several ailments. Besides, there is the worry to maintain sway over his traditional support base of Rajputs, Muslims and Yadavs and keep his party united, say the observers.