PATNA: It’s the complete volte face.
Four years back, Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice-president, didn’t like to walk in the company of “convicted” RJD president Lalu Prasad and even tore apart the ordinance of his own UPA government aimed at saving the convicted lawmakers from disqualification, terming it “complete non-sense”. This happened in September 2013 when UPA was still in power and Rahul, perhaps, had not hoped for such a bad phase ahead for his party.
A couple of days back when Rahul called his party lawmakers from Bihar to Delhi to hold a one-to-one meeting amid rumours of split and quite many of them suggested him to break alliance with the RJD, he reportedly lost his cool and declared “losing Lalu Prasad is out of question”. Coincidentally, it’s September again!
So, what, as such has happened in these four years that Rahul doesn’t want to break alliance with Lalu Prasad at the cost of a rebellion in his party? Three reasons are being cited for this:
Number One: The RJD has been the most trusted ally of the UPA till date. While many of its erstwhile allies kept on changing loyalty to suit their political opportunism, the RJD has firmly stood with him without any change in its stand
Recently, the Congress tried to start a new chapter of friendship with Nitish Kumar and even projected him as the CM candidate for 2015 Bihar assembly elections without consulting Lalu Prasad but the experience has been quite much bitter. Nitish Kumar whom it trusted much not only dumped the Grand Alliance midway and joined hands with its rival, the BJP, but is also being blamed for causing split in the Congress.
In sharp contrast to Nitish Kumar, the RJD president has been firmly with the Congress through thick and thin. Lalu Prasad strongly defended Sonia Gandhi and described her as “Desh Ki Bahu” (Daughter-in-law of the country) when the BJP raised the issue of her foreign origin and looked hell-bent on not allowing her take oath as the PM when the Congress-UPA emerged victorious in 2004 LS polls.
Lalu Prasad again came to the rescue of Rahul when the opposition created ruckus over his speech about Kalawati, the symbol of hardship of farmers in the suicide-ridden Vidarbha region, during a debate in the parliament in 2008 and also his visit to the houses of Dalits.
Number two: The second reason why the Congress just can’t afford to go it alone is that Lalu Prasad’s RJD still remains a force to reckon with in Bihar and enjoys huge support base among all sections of the society as was evident from the really huge turnouts at its “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” rally held in Patna on August 27. A record crowd swamped Patna despite half part of the state reeling under floods and Prasad not able to make requests to them due his too much engagement in court cases.
Number three: Lalu Prasad has been facing probably the worst phase of his four decade-old political career with just every member of his family made accused in one case or the other, such as land-for-hotel scam, benami lands and money-laundering.
Right now, all the top investigating agencies such, the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Departments, are investigating the cases of his family. It would, thus, have conveyed a wrong massage in the society had the Congress dumped him at this critical juncture like Nitish Kumar who using the CBI case against Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav as an “excuse” walked out of the Grand Alliance and returned to the NDA.