LALU’S SAFEST BET

RJD chief nom­i­nates wife Rabri Devi as MLC, de­pends on her to bail him out po­lit­i­cally

India Today - - NATION - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

When she lost in the 2010 Assem­bly polls from two seats, Rabri Devi’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer seemed all but over. But in less than two years, Rabri Devi has restarted her leg­isla­tive ca­reer, hav­ing taken oath as a mem­ber of the Bi­har Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil on May 7. Rabri Devi’s el­e­va­tion as­sumes cru­cial sig­nif­i­cance be­cause Lalu Ya­dav nom­i­nated his wife when his party could send just one can­di­date to the Up­per House.

While this may seem as a step back with chances of Rashtriya Janata Dal ( RJD) chief Ya­dav re­ceiv­ing flak for foist­ing his wife on the party, in­sid­ers say it’s a cal­cu­lated move. Rabri Devi has al­ways been Ya­dav’s best bet. In July 1997, when he had to quit as chief min­is­ter, he en­sured his po­lit­i­cal sur­vival by mak­ing Rabri Devi suc­ceed him. The sur­ro­gate chief min­is­ter ruled Bi­har for eight years, help­ing Ya­dav con­sol­i­date his po­lit­i­cal stand­ing and go na­tional with­out wor­ry­ing about his home turf.

2012 is no less crit­i­cal for Ya­dav. Hav­ing been com­pre­hen­sively de­feated in three suc­ces­sive elec­tions ( two Assem­bly and one par­lia­men­tary polls), the RJD is ner­vous as it pre­pares for the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions. The on­go­ing fod­der scam cases in the CBI court in Ranchi, where pros­e­cu­tion wit­nesses have de­posed against Ya­dav, are only adding to his trou­bles. At this crit­i­cal junc­ture, he has, very nat­u­rally, turned back to his most trusted con­fi­dante to bail him out of a tight spot.

Ya­dav also has rea­sons to be hopeful. In the 2010 Assem­bly elec­tions, when RJD recorded its worst per­for­mance, the party still polled 54, 66,693 votes, al­most 19 per cent of the to­tal votes polled in the elec­tions. Ya­dav be­lieves things will only get bet­ter. Though the Ni­tish Kumar- led NDA has won the sub­se­quent by­elec­tions in Da­raunda and Laukaha in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber 2011, fol­low­ing deaths of sit­ting Janata Dal ( United) mem­bers, the num­bers reaf­firmed that Ya­dav is still a force to reckon with; RJD’S can­di­dates polled bet­ter than in the pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

The present sit­u­a­tion in­di­cates that the RJD chief’s tra­di­tional Ya­dav sup­port­ers, Bi­har’s sin­gle largest caste which com­prises about 15 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, are back­ing him.

Ya­dav has also ig­nored the mur­murs within the party over nom­i­nat­ing Rabri Devi for the lone party seat in the Up­per House. He is clearly not will­ing to spend en­ergy and time seek­ing an im­age makeover. In­stead, he is con­cen­trat­ing on iden­tity pol­i­tics— con­sol­i­dat­ing his tra­di­tional Ya­dav sup­port­ers— with wife Rabri Devi ready to

IN 1997, WHEN LALU YA­DAV HAD TO QUITAS CHIEF MIN­IS­TER, HE EN­SURED HIS PO­LIT­I­CAL SUR­VIVAL BY MAK­ING RABRI DEVI SUC­CEED HIM.

play on com­mu­nity emo­tions.

Though Ni­tish Kumar still ap­pears miles ahead of Ya­dav in terms of hav­ing a larger so­cial sup­port base, the RJD chief can­not stop him­self from be­ing hopeful. And, Rabri Devi ob­vi­ously is still his best po­lit­i­cal cush­ion to face the fu­ture. Rabri Devi’s procla­ma­tion about their son and daugh­ter en­ter­ing pol­i­tics also as­sumes sig­nif­i­cance. “We will in­tro­duce our chil­dren into pol­i­tics,” she said. “What’s wrong in it?”

Noth­ing, per­haps. Af­ter all, it is aimed at con­sol­i­dat­ing Team Lalu.

RABRI DEVI AF­TER BE­ING SWORN IN AS AN MLC, IN PATNA ON MAY7

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