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Posts Tagged ‘Lalu Prasad Yadav

Are Lalu Prasad’s two sons and daughter jostling to succeed him as a leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal? Sonia Sarkar weighs the matter

A picture speaks a thousand words. A poster right outside the residence of Lalu Prasad says it all. Bihar’s present – and would-be – chief minister Nitish Kumar stands next to Prasad’s son, Tejashwi, almost hand in hand, while two of his other children – daughter Misa Bharti and son Tej Pratap – are on the other end of the poster.

Political pundits in Patna believe that’s the way the wind blows. Tejashwi could end up as Prasad’s heir apparent – and eventually be handed over the reins of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

“Lalu ji sees the future of the party in Tejashwi. He wants him to walk along with Nitish Kumar and learn the tricks of politics and governance,” says an RJD leader.

Prasad’s RJD won 80 seats in the just-concluded Assembly elections in Bihar. Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), which led a grand alliance of which the RJD was a part, won 71 seats and the Congress, 27.

Prasad, who had almost been written off before the polls, however, may have to handle another war – at home. A battle for supremacy could be looming in his own family.

The three have all taken a plunge into politics. The sons are now elected legislators – from Mahua and Raghopur constituencies, respectively. Misa fought and lost from Pataliputra in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Misa is the eldest of his nine children. Tej Pratap is the older son, born after six sisters. Tejashwi is the younger son – and seemingly the favourite of his father. Mother, ex-chief minister Rabri Devi, is said to favour Tej Pratap.

The two sons – so named because they were born during memorable thunderstorms – do not get along. They may have grown up playing volleyball and cricket together, but are now seen as adversaries with different teams of people working for them. “The two hardly interact with each other,” claims a party insider.

Misa, who is 39, has been away from the brothers for long. The Patna Medical College graduate and her IT engineer husband Shailesh lived in Bangalore for a few years before she moved to Delhi to join her father who was then railway minister.

Born during the Emergency, she was named after the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act (Misa), imposed on political opponents of Indira Gandhi. She often introduces herself as ” andolan ki beti” – daughter of the revolution.

She seems to have inherited her father’s penchant for drama. When she was given a ticket for Pataliputra, which Prasad’s then close aide Ram Kripal Yadav had earlier won, Yadav took umbrage. Misa then barged into his house, with the media, refusing to leave till she had a chance to make up with her “uncle”.

Earlier, at a huge rally in Patna in 2013, where Prasad’s sons were officially launched, she made a sudden entry, taking party leaders by surprise.

“Misa wants to be at the centre of politics,” Delhi-based political scientist Manisha Priyam says.

Misa believes that like her father she can connect with people. “That’s one of the qualities I have inherited from Papa,” she asserts.

Like her father, she is known to be driven. Pataliputra was won by Yadav who joined the BJP in 2014. But Misa has not given up on it.

“I will work for the people of Pataliputra and concentrate on the parliamentary polls,” she says.

Misa claims that she was the “crisis manager” when Prasad was in jail for 135 days in 1997 on charges related to the Rs 950-crore fodder scam, in which he was convicted for siphoning off money earmarked for cattle fodder.

“I have seen the functioning of the party very closely during those years. Since then, I have acquired political maturity. I also have a great connect with senior party leaders,” she says. “But the leaders have always treated my brothers as kids.”

But, clearly, they are kids no more. At a party national executive meet in April, Prasad told a core group of leaders that “only a son could succeed a father”. But he didn’t name either Tej Pratap, 29, or Tejashwi, 27.

Sources say that the two sons – who refused to speak to The Telegraph despite repeated efforts – want Cabinet berths in the new alliance government. There is also speculation that Tejashwi would be made the leader of the RJD Legislature Party.

Senior party leaders contend that neither has the ability to hold a responsible job. Tej Pratap, they point out, wanted to contest student union elections in Patna’s Bihar National College, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was the union president in Patna University in 1970. But he failed his exams and couldn’t contest the polls.

“He cannot speak like his father, nor does he have his charm,” an RJD youth leader says. “Except Lalu ji’s arrogance, he has inherited nothing from him.”

Influenced by the teachings of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he is mostly engaged in religious activities. The insiders say that he dresses up as Lord Krishna or Lord Shiva and plays the flute or the dumroo. A close associate says that he posed as Sai Baba at a family function in Delhi a few years ago.

Prasad, it is said, initially did not want him to join politics. A motorcycle showroom was opened for him in Aurangabad. But Tej Pratap took little interest in it. Rabri Devi, the whisper goes, persuaded her husband to allow him to contest from Mahua, denying a ticket to party old timer Jageshwar Rai.

Party members believe that Tejashwi, a former student of Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram, is more grounded. He connects with people, is a good listener and speaks well. “He has observed how party leaders conduct themselves politically and picked up the skills,” a senior RJD leader says. “Also, he speaks the language of the younger generation of Biharis, who want jobs.”

Prasad introduced him to politics in the 2010 state Assembly polls, after Tejashwi failed to make a mark as a cricketer. He addressed several election rallies, but the RJD won only 22 of the state’s 243 Assembly seats. The RJD head, however, continues to back him.

“One of the indications of that is that Lalu made him contest from Raghopur, which he had won in 1995 and 2000, and Rabri Devi in 2005,” Priyam points out.

Prasad’s aides, however, believe that he is in no hurry to hand over any major responsibility to Tejashwi yet. He knows the havoc that inexperience can play. When he was in jail in 1997, there was a statewide outcry against Rabri Devi’s misrule.

Indeed, today’s Lalu Prasad is vastly different from the man who lorded over Bihar in the Nineties. Then he was the tallest leader of the state and a power at the Centre. But he has been out of power for over 10 years in Bihar and has no role to play at the Centre. Now that he has been given another chance, he is unlikely to fritter it away.

“His body language has changed and he is less arrogant now. He would want his children to be like that,” an aide says. “He wants long-term politics for his sons, so would want them to learn.”

Political observers agree. “Lalu would want them to be politically trained before they take up important responsibilities,” says Shaibal Gupta, who heads the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute. “And he would want Nitish Kumar to train them in governance because they have good family bonding.”

Misa too believes that winning an election doesn’t mean either of her brothers would become Prasad’s successor. “Now it is no longer Lalu ji’s prerogative. The electorate would choose the successor depending upon our work.”

She dismisses rumours that she may be named deputy chief minister, though she did not contest the elections. “Let someone who won an Assembly seat take up the post. Why should I be dragged into it,” she says.

Senior party members, who are watching the developments within, are concerned. None of the three, they believe, is capable right now of handling a post. But they are demanding, and Prasad is known to be a fond father. “Lalu ji is extremely emotional when it comes to his children. They always get what they ask for,” a party leader says.

But who’ll get the lantern – the RJD’s election symbol – and become the torchbearer for the party? The question hovers in the air.

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The Supreme Court has stayed the pronouncement of a Ranchi court judgment on the Rs 950-crore fodder scam, but Lalu Prasad clearly is playing his last innings in politics. Is it time to write a requiem for a man who was once one of Bihar’s tallest leaders and a power at the Centre?

The old traits are all there — the cherubic face, the fringed hair and the white dhoti and vest. What’s missing is the toothy grin. Lalu Prasad Yadav, the eternal court jester in the realm of politics, is looking unusually grim.

The mood, in fact, is sombre at Patna’s 10, Circular Road. Politicians who have gathered there to meet the former Bihar chief minister and central minister too look worried. News has just come in that the Ranchi High Court has rejected his plea to shift one of the many cases related to Rs 950-crore fodder scam — in which he is accused of embezzling funds — to another court. But Lalu Prasad is not ready to give up. He is on his way to the Supreme Court.

“It’s a legal battle, I have to fight it,” the MP from Saran says.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court stayed the pronouncement of the Ranchi trial court judgment and granted two weeks to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Jharkhand government to respond to Lalu Prasad’s petition. Lalu had asked for a transfer because the judge in Ranchi was related to one of his political foes. The next hearing is on July 23. A day later, the Supreme Court ruled that convicted politicians cannot fight an election for six years after the end of their jail term.

The 66-year-old politician, who was jailed in 1997 on a case that related to the fodder scam, shrugs off speculation about another stint in prison.

“Jail jaane se kya farak padega — hum tou pehle bhi jail gaye the (How does it matter if I am imprisoned — I’ve been there before),” says Lalu Prasad, who is an accused in many of the 63-odd cases relating to the embezzlement of money from a Bihar government fund meant for animal fodder.

The last time he was in jail, he had installed his wife Rabri Devi — then a simple homemaker — as the state chief minister. This time, he has been propping up his two sons, Tejashwi, 24, and Tej Pratap, 26. But the Lalu of the 1990s is vastly different from today’s Lalu Prasad. Then he was one of the tallest leaders of the state and a power at the Centre. Today, he has almost no role to play either in the state or at the Centre.

Lalu Prasad, out of power for eight years in Bihar, is fast losing his ground. The last straw was the break between the ruling Janata Dal (United) and its partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in the state. The split took place in June, catapulting Nitish Kumar to centre stage, and pushing Lalu Prasad further into a corner.

Politicians in the state and in Delhi believe the Congress is looking favourably at Lalu’s bête noire, Nitish Kumar, and seems ready to leave Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for the JD(U). It may mean the end of the road for Lalu Prasad. Nitish Kumar’s break with the BJP over Narendra Modi is likely to cut into Lalu’s vote bank of Muslims and Yadavs.

“In Bihar, the key players are the BJP and the JD(U) — Lalu Prasad is just not relevant anymore,” says political researcher Manisha Priyam whose thesis is on Bihar. “Most anti-NDA votes will go to Nitish (Kumar) and anti Nitish votes to the NDA,” she says.

Indeed, Lalu Prasad’s constituency of Muslims and Yadavs has been shrinking. The two together comprise around 25 per cent of the vote base. But sections of Muslims have been gravitating towards the JD(U).

“The BJP’s communal image had kept many Muslims away from the JD(U). Now that we are not together, a large chunk of Muslims will vote for Nitish Kumar, which will affect Lalu Prasad,” says JD(U) MP Ali Anwar Ansari, who recently organised a rally for the state’s backward Muslims in Patna.

Lalu Prasad, predictably, shrugs off all these claims. “It is not easy to win over Muslims,” he says. “We have been always consistent against fascist forces such as the BJP, unlike Kumar who changed sides,” says Lalu Prasad, who stepped into the secular pantheon when he stopped L.K. Advani’s rath yatra in Bihar and had him arrested in 1990.

But it’s not just the fractured Muslim vote that should trouble Lalu Prasad. Even his vote base of Yadavs is under threat. The BJP, state politicians stress, is now aggressively playing the Yadav card with the help of its two top Yadav leaders — Hukumdev Narayan Yadav and Nand Kishore Yadav.

“Lalu Yadav is playing his last innings in politics,” says Bihar Assembly’s leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav.

For someone who once occupied the heart of politics, it’s a steep fall. Lalu Prasad, after all, has been a central figure in politics for over 20 years. He broke the backbone of the upper-caste-led Congress party and gave voice to backward classes in Bihar. Later, as minister for railways, he earned accolades for transforming it into a profit-earning one. Suddenly, Lalu Prasad was being feted worldwide.

Always outspoken, his brand of humour — rustic one-liners for every occasion — also ensured that he was the darling of the media. Over the years, however, the voice seems to have lost its timbre — he is being seen less and less on TV or in the print media. Observers hold that his last memorable speech in Parliament was during the debate on the Lokpal Bill in 2011.

His political fortunes actually started sliding in 2005 after he’d ruled Bihar for 15 years. His rule was often seen as chaotic, with a high crime rate and little development. Not surprisingly, in 2005, he could win only 54 seats, as the JD(U)-BJP alliance gathered 143 seats in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. In what was seen as a signal of the people’s displeasure, Rabri Devi was defeated in the two constituencies she fought from — Raghopur and Sonepur.

Five years later, his fortunes dwindled further. In the 2010 Assembly polls, the RJD could win only 22 seats. The parliamentary polls were no better. In the last election, his party won four seats in Parliament as opposed to the JD(U)-BJP’s 32.

Now, with the JD(U) parting ways with the BJP, sections of the Congress are hoping to dump him. “We plan to say a formal goodbye to him,” stresses Sanjay Nirupam, All India Congress Committee secretary formerly in charge of Bihar. “We are more than willing to join hands with the JD(U).”

But Lalu Prasad is not convinced. “I have not heard anything officially from the Congress,” he says.

For Lalu, it’s been a long journey to the centre of politics. A cowherd’s son, he made his political mark as the president of the Patna University students’ union in 1970 and gradually emerged as a popular leader who fought the Emergency. In 1977, at the age of 29, he was one of the youngest members of the Lok Sabha.

In Bihar, he soon became a formidable political force and was looked upon as the messiah of the masses. Many hold that he was the most important OBC leader in Bihar after former chief minister Karpoori Thakur. In 1990, he came to power in the state and was anointed as a grassroots leader.

Some believe the popular leader is no longer in touch with the masses. “He needs to reassure the people that he still represents them,” says Shaibal Gupta, member secretary of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute. He adds that if Lalu Prasad wants to regain the trust of his supporters, he has to “make his case stronger at the Centre. He needs to choose his candidates carefully and organise his party.”

The party, clearly, is coming apart at the seams. Many of his colleagues are worried how the party — and its leader — will fare after the verdict in the fodder scam. And the senior leaders are not happy at the way he is propping up his sons.

“Anyone is welcome to join the party but nobody should be forced upon us,” says an RJD leader. “We will not tolerate that.”

The sons, they complain, have neither their father’s charisma nor his experience. Able cricketers, they have had no role to play in politics so far. At an RJD rally in March where the two were formally launched, observers recall that they were quietly sitting at the back when their father summoned them to the front row. All they did at the rally was fold their hands and wave to the people.

Lalu Prasad doesn’t believe his sons can pose a problem. “Kids of all party workers are welcome. What’s wrong with my sons,” he asks, tossing his head.

But party leaders say that despite his protestations, Lalu Prasad is worried. He carries on as usual — after a quick stroll in the lawns every morning, he scans the newspapers and then meets party workers — but is looking at ways to overhaul the party. He is now seeking to hold training camps to discipline party workers — a measure he’d never taken before. He is also trying to build up a core working committee of the party for its smooth functioning.

The recent win of RJD’s Prabhunath Singh over JD(U)’s P.K. Shahi by 1.37 lakh votes in the Maharajganj by-election has given him hope. “Despite being the ruling party, the JD(U) lost. This indicates that our voters are coming back to us,” he says. The seat, however, was with the RJD, which defeated the JD(U) to win it in 2009.

“These results tell us nothing. He seems to be a sinking ship,” Priyam says.

Will he swim or sink? The jury’s out on that — literally.

 


  • mamun ibne hussain: dont take it negatively but we are indian and our daughters should not follow the filthiest dirtiest horrible european and american womens the w
  • Susmita Saha: Memories truly have a special place in the treasure trove called life. And your memories shine like jewels in this piece.
  • saimi: That is a lovely one Sonia.. and I can relate to so many things that you mention ...