LALU’S SAFEST BET
RJD chief nominates wife Rabri Devi as MLC, depends on her to bail him out politically
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