PATNA: Jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Monday lost one of his close associates, Raghunath Jha, who had played a crucial role in making him the chief minister of Bihar for the first time in 1990 against several political and financial odds.
Jha, a senior RJD leader and one of the party’s prominent upper-caste faces, passed away at a Delhi hospital at the age of 79. The former Union minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprise in the UPA-I government had been suffering from a host of health complications. He was last present at an RJD meeting at Yadav’s Patna residence on January 6 after the party chief was sentenced to three years and a half in jail in a fodder scam case.
Many in Bihar attribute the creation of the “phenomenon of Lalu Yadav” to the political masterstroke of Jha in 1990, when Janata Dal won the Assembly polls in the state and dislodged Congress from power. Jha had been a close confidant of Yadav for most part of his public life, except for a 15-month gap in 2015-16 that he spent with Samajwadi Party after revolting against Yadav.
In March 1990, soon after Janata Dal won by bagging 132 of the total 324 Assembly seats (present-day Jharkhand was then a part of Bihar), Yadav’s bid to become CM was resisted by then Prime Minister VP Singh. Yadav, an MP then, staked claim to the post on the basis of his previous tenure as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly. But VP Singh strongly favoured Dalit leader and former CM Ram Sundar Das.
Yadav had the direct backing of then deputy prime minister Devi Lal, who had reportedly funded and mentored him previously. With a direct election between Das and Yadav looming with less chances of Yadav’s victory, he sought help from former PM Chandra Shekhar. It was at Chandra Shekhar’s insistence that Jha contested as the third candidate in order to secure Yadav’s victory.
“He was a close friend and made important contributions in his public life. I am very sad today as I am a prisoner now and unable to be present to offer him my last tributes,” said Yadav in Ranchi when he came out of jail for appearance in a court in a fodder scam case.
Jha’s death was condoled by CM Nitish Kumar and several other leaders.