It is jail time again for the irrepressible Lalu Prasad Yadav who has been convicted in the second case relating to the multi-crore fodder scam. This is the eighth time Lalu has gone to jail after a special CBI court convicted him, along with 15 others, for fraudulently withdrawing money from the Deoghar treasury meant for the animal husbandry department in the unified Bihar between 1991 and 1994 when he was the Chief Minister. With his incarceration, questions are being raised over the future of his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). While his party had weathered many a storm in the past even as the former Chief Minister has been in and out of the prison, the latest conviction is bound to have a demoralising impact on the cadre. More importantly, it will blunt the opposition’s efforts to forge a non-BJP formation at national level. Despite the tag of corruption, nepotism and “jungle raj”, Lalu has displayed remarkable political skills to remain a rallying point for the avowed secular forces and his absence is expected to take away much of the sting in the opposition camp. The Congress, which is hoping to take the pole position under the leadership of a resurgent Rahul Gandhi to fight the NDA in the 2019 general elections, will surely find the going tough if Lalu were to face convictions in the remaining four fodder scam related cases in which he figures among the accused. It would become increasingly difficult for the RJD to keep its flock together in the changed political dynamics in Bihar following the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s return to the NDA fold.
Challenging times are ahead for the Lalu family as his son Tejashwi Yadav, widely seen as his political successor, is also facing serious trouble in the IRCTC hotel scam. The Enforcement Directorate has also registered cases against several members of the Lalu clan, including his daughter Misa Bharti and wife Rabri Devi, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the cases that date back to the time when he was the railway minister in the UPA government. Expectedly, the beleaguered RJD boss has invoked victimhood and caste cards and accused BJP of resorting to political vendetta. However, such tactics would not cut much ice with the people, though his hardcore loyalists may be willing to buy the conspiracy theories. While it would be premature to write him off at this juncture, things would not be the same again for Lalu who has so far been successful in retaining the support base among a section of the OBCs and minorities as was reflected in the RJD emerging as the single largest party in the last assembly elections.