PATNA: With the seat-sharing deal in Bihar’s Opposition RJD-led Grand Alliance hanging in the balance and depending solely on the go-ahead from jailed party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Congress is in a dilemma over whether party president Rahul Gandhi should meet him at a Ranchi hospital where he is in judicial custody.
Gandhi is set to address a Congress rally in Ranchi on Saturday to kick off the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha polls in the state. Saturday is the day on which the ailing 70-year-old Yadav is allowed to meet visitors as per jail rules, it is widely expected that Gandhi may pay him a visit and seal the vexed seat-sharing deal for Bihar. But Congress leaders say they have no information about such a visit being in Gandhi’s schedules for the day.
In fact, since Yadav has been convicted in four cases of the fodder scam and handed jail terms of over 27 years, Congress leaders are wary of the possible “negative implications” of a meeting between him and Gandhi on Grand Alliance’s performances in the polls.
Bihar’s ruling JD(U) and BJP have been pillorying Grand Alliance’s failure to finalise a seat-sharing deal and claiming that no deal could be sealed till Gandhi “falls at the feet of the convicted Lalu in jail”. Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar had attacked Gandhi earlier this month, saying that Gandhi had “squandered his goodwill” by allying with Yadav.
“So far, there is no programme of the party president (Gandhi) paying Yadav a visit in Ranchi. If at all he goes and meets him, that would be his personal choice and a courtesy visit to inquire about Yadav’s health,” said a senior Congress leader. “The political costs of such a meeting at this time could be high for the alliance, especially for us,” he added.
When Yadav was under treatment at AIIMS in New Delhi in April last year, Gandhi had visited him. But Congress leaders pointed out that Yadav’s condition then was delicate and that he was shifted to AIIMS from RIMS in Ranchi with Jharkhand High Court’s permission. “Unlike then, Yadav has neither sought nor has granted permission to seek treatment outside Ranchi,” said another senior Congress leader.
“The huge difficulty for them (Grand Alliance) is that no decision on seat-sharing can be taken unless Rahul Gandhi, who had torn apart a copy of the cabinet proposal for an ordinance on corruption, visits the convicted Yadav in jail and falls at his feet,” said deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP.