NEW DELHI: The RJD’s defeat in the two Assembly bypolls in Bihar is believed to have weakened Lalu Prasad’s position in the non-BJP opposition at the national level. Bihar watchers as well as political analysts in Delhi are increasingly questioning Lalu’s political relevance in the 2024 general election.
After the RJD supremo’s exit from jail in fodder scam cases and his own aggressiveness in the run-up to the bypolls, it was widely speculated that Lalu would soon grab the centre-stage of anti-BJP forces, which currently is the preserve of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Lalu’s oratory and rustic style remains intact. He was in his combative best while announcing the visarjan (final exit) of the ruling Nitish Kumar-led government in the campaign. The poll results came as a rude shock for the RJD as it lost both Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur.
Patna’s political analyst Dr RK Verma says Lalu is disappointed with the bypoll results. “But he is not out yet. He continues to carry more political heft in the opposition than others because of his organisational acumen,” says Verma. However, Delhi-based political analyst Ajit Jha says Lalu’s rhetoric doesn’t fetch votes any more.
“His party lacks mature politicians who can sway the people. Beyond seat arrangement, the RJD has no contribution in visionary politics. His jail terms have also created an image problem. Therefore, his position in the anti-BJP opposition forces is not going to be effective anytime soon for the 2024 polls,” says Jha. He said that Lalu desperately needs a new vision and a new mission. “Otherwise, it will be difficult to revive the opposition for the 2024 battle,” says Jha.
Supriya Satyam, a political analyst, disagrees with Lalu on caste politics. “Politics based on a certain conservative caste-based equation cannot survive. The RJD’s recent defeat might be a small thing, but it has proved that Lalu continues to lose his political charisma,” she said.
Under the circumstances, she says, Lalu’s advice for the opposition would not find ready acceptance.
Dr Anjana Kumari, a political researcher in DU, says Lalu could be known as a best-heard politician, but nothing else. “He would not be able to make as much of an impact as he did till a few years ago. If he wants to grow back again, then his party will have to be more than a regional party,” she said.