Several senior RJD members may not agree to follow the orders of Lalu’s 26-year-old son Tejashwi Yadav, who has been asked to lead the party.
Patna: The court verdict in the Deoghar fodder scam case has come as a major blow to RJD chief Lalu Yadav and his party. According to JD-U sources, the conviction might end RJD supremo Lalu Yadav’s four-decade-long political innings, which had already got a body blow in 2013 after a six-year ban was imposed on his contesting elections due to his first conviction in the fodder scam case at Chaibasa.
Some leaders even predict that his latest jail stint, whose tenure will be decided by court on January 3, will not only break his party but also force a split in the grand secular alliance.
This was his second conviction in the fodder scam and was linked to swindling of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994. The 2013 conviction dealt with fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.5 crores from Chaibasa treasury.
The Deoghar case verdict against Lalu Yadav has come at a time when he was preparing to stitch together a larger alliance at the national level to gain support from secular parties against the BJP.
Observers say that a lot will depend on whether the Congress will remain in an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) after Lalu Yadav's conviction in the fodder scam case.
According to a report, a section of Bihar Congress leaders, opposed to contining ties with tainted Lalu Yadav, are exploring the possibilities of contesting elections on their own.
After the dramatic collapse of the grand secular alliance in July, Lalu Yadav had managed to stay afloat with the Congress in Bihar despite opposition from several party leaders who wanted to end ties with RJD on grounds that the RJD chieftain and his sons were facing a string of corruption charges.
Party insiders claim that he had also managed to maintain unity within the party, despite reports that a large number of MLAs were planning to join hands with JD-U after Nitish Kumar formed a government with NDA in July.
However, party leaders fear the scenario may soon change as several senior RJD members, who had supported Lalu Yadav in his hard times, may not agree to follow the orders of his 26-year-old son Tejashwi Yadav who has been asked to lead the party.
What is being feared the most is that Lalu Yadav's opponent Nitish Kumar and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi might take advantage of the situation and intensify their attack on the RJD.
After the verdict was pronounced last week, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, “Besides fodder scam cases, there are several other corruption charges pending against Lalu Yadav. He may get convicted and remain inside the jail for a longer period”.
People close to the RJD chief have, however, dismissed speculation that the verdict and quantum of punishment will impact the political equations in Bihar.
“Those who think that Lalu Yadav is finished after he was sent to jail are mistaken he will return soon. My father is a mass leader and has been fighting for the backward. We have faith in the judiciary and are hopeful that this temporary phase will end,” former deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav said.
The quantum of punishment in the fodder scam case is to be decided on January 3. Legal experts claim that Lalu Yadav “may face trouble in getting bail from the trial court because he has been convicted for the second time in a similar case”.
RJD supporters are of the view that Lalu Yadav's conviction will increase the RJD’s vote share in Bihar. They said Muslims and Yadavs are feeling betrayed by the series of cases against him and his family members.
“There is a feeling among people that Lalu Yadav and his sons have been falsely implicated in politically motivated cases. The people understand this kind of negative politics that the BJP has been indulging in,” RJD legislator Ejya Yadav said.
According to the RJD leaders, the vote share of the party was between 18-20 per cent in the past four Assembly polls. In 2015 polls, RJD emerged as the largest party in the Assembly with 80 seats.
They said it was only due to Lalu Yadav's mass appeal that had helped JD-U during the 2015 Assembly elections.
Ironically, corruption has never been an election issue in Bihar and charges against Lalu Yadav earlier have failed to dent his popularity.