Patna: After the Jharkhand elections, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad’s life in judicial custody in Ranchi is more comfortable, with a stream of visitors meeting him, throwing the jail manual, which limits the number of visitors to three and only on Saturday, to the winds.
On Friday, his son Tejashwi Yadav visited his father and he was followed by new Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Saturday saw at least 15 visitors, including former Bihar minister Narendra Singh. “I had just gone to enquire about the health conditions of Laluji,” Singh said.
But while there is comfort for Lalu in hospital, his political problem remains — both in Jharkhand and in Bihar.
‘Jharkhand RJD is Saraswati river’
The RJD is part of the new ruling coalition, which includes the Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).
In the recent assembly polls, the RJD won just one of the seven seats it contested.
Its only winning candidate, S. Bhokta, won from Chatra but he is a former BJP MLA with considerable influence of his own.
The one seat is a step up from the 2014 assembly polls when the RJD contested on 60-odd seats and drew a blank.
However, the RJD’s influence on the new Hemant Soren government will be very marginal.
“The existence of RJD in Jharkhand is like the mythical river Saraswati in Triveni. One does not see it but it is there, especially in the districts bordering Bihar, which have a substantial Yadav and Muslim population,” remarked former Jharkhand RJD president Gautam Sagar Rana who quit the party before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
“If the party was not able to take advantage of the anti-Raghubar Das wave it was because of its organisational weakness,” he added.
When Bihar was bifurcated in 2000, the RJD, unlike the LJP and the JD(U), had a presence in Jharkhand and managed to win 11 assembly seats in the inaugural assembly elections. Through the years, however, it has been reduced to a minor player.
“You cannot run a party in Jharkhand from Patna. The politics and dynamics of Bihar and Jharkhand are entirely different,” Rana said. “Here in Jharkhand, it’s the tribal population that holds the cards. You cannot expect to win by installing a Bihari as the party head and besides the party did not hold any organisational or social activity in Jharkhand.”
Rana also said access to 10 Circular Road, the official Yadav residence, for Jharkhand leaders had always been a problem. He added that while Tejashwi Yadav’s public meetings in Jharkhand drew crowds, “but the organisation failed to turn that into votes”.
Bihar, a different ball game
When the Jharkhand results were declared, the RJD in Bihar was enthusiastic. “Now it’s the turn of Bihar,” tweeted Tejashwi Yadav.
“The election results of Jharkhand will serve as a morale booster,” remarked RJD MLA Alok Mehta. Party leaders, however, agree that Bihar is a different ball game.
“Even in 1995 in united Bihar when Lalu Prasad’s political graph was at the top, the BJP won maximum number of seats from Jharkhand area,” remarked a former RJD minister.
The BJP has also dismissed RJD’s euphoria. “The political, geographical and social combination of Bihar and Jharkhand are entirely different. Had it not been so there would have been no need for bifurcation,” remarked deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi. “In Bihar, the NDA will be led by a seasoned politician like Nitish Kumar. On the other hand, our opposition is being led by a person who does not even possess the humaneness and leadership of Hemant Soren.”
The RJD has bigger problems to contend with.
In its national executive meet last month, the party declared that the grand alliance in Bihar would contest under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav and that he would be CM candidate.
The very next day, state Congress president Madan Mohan Jha declared that the leadership issue is to be decided by the central Congress leadership and not the RJD.
Former CM and Hindustani Awam Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi has declared that he will not consider Tejashwi Yadav to be CM candidate. He has carved out an alliance with Asaduddin Qwaisi’s AIMIM, which is likely to contest the Bihar 2020 assembly polls.