The Re­turn of Sushil Modi

The for­mer state BJP chief uses the time-tested ploy of tar­get­ing Lalu to win back favour

India Today - - STATES - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

At his news con­fer­ence on May 12, when Union min­is­ter Ravi Shankar Prasad at­tacked Lalu Prasad Ya­dav and his fam­ily for their al­leged in­volve­ment in shady land deals, it was seen as an ac­knowl­edge­ment by the BJP cen­tral lead­er­ship of Sushil Modi’s ef­forts to ex­pose Lalu’s “undis­closed prop­er­ties”. The ev­i­dence Modi had painstak­ingly col­lected over the past few months proved very use­ful for the BJP’s cen­tral lead­er­ship to dis­credit the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, par­tic­u­larly at a time when op­po­si­tion groups were hop­ing to use Lalu’s con­nec­tions across party lines to cob­ble to­gether a com­mon front.

Not only has Lalu been forced to ac­knowl­edge the own­er­ship of the “du­bi­ously ac­quired prop­er­ties”, the rev­e­la­tions may have also widened the rift in Bi­har’s rul­ing coali­tion. Chief Min­is­ter Ni­tish Ku­mar and his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) have dis­tanced them­selves in the af­fair, re­fus­ing to de­fend Lalu on the land deals.

Mean­while, Modi ap­pears to have won a much-needed ‘sec­ond chance’ in a party that had un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously cast him aside post the BJP’s drub­bing in the 2015 Bi­har as­sem­bly polls. Not only was the Ra­jya Sabha berth he hoped for handed

to his ri­val Gopal Narayan Singh in May 2016, BJP sources say Modi wasn’t even con­sulted when Nityanand Rai was picked as the Bi­har unit pres­i­dent in De­cem­ber 2016. Rai then went on to side­line many of Modi’s sup­port­ers while con­sti­tut­ing the new state ex­ec­u­tive.

Once the undis­puted face of the BJP in Bi­har, 65-year-old Modi knew he needed to fight back to re­main po­lit­i­cally rel­e­vant. He fell back on a time-tested strat­egy—tar­get­ing Lalu—which had pro­pelled him through the BJP ranks in the 1990s.

Things had al­ready started look­ing up when the BJP’s Delhi unit asked him to join the cam­paign for the mu­nic­i­pal polls. Modi had clearly come a long way from Jan­uary, when he was kept out of the Ut­tar Pradesh as­sem­bly cam­paign while other state


lead­ers—Nand Kishore Ya­dav, Man­gal Pandey and Rai—were roped in.

Modi’s broad­side tar­gets Lalu’s sons Tej Pratap and Te­jashwi (both min­is­ters), his wife Rabri Devi and daugh­ter Misa Bharti, by es­tab­lish­ing that their as­sets mul­ti­plied man­i­fold over the years, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing his ten­ure as rail­way min­is­ter. He has also dug up doc­u­ments to show that RJD lead­ers like Kanti Singh, Raghu­nath Jha and Prem­c­hand Gupta gifted valu­able prop­er­ties to Lalu’s sons be­fore they were made Union min­is­ters dur­ing UPA-I.

Even though Modi’s rev­e­la­tions have rat­tled Lalu and his kin, the RJD chief is un­cer­tain about seek­ing le­gal re­course. For the mo­ment, it seems there’s no stop­ping Modi in his newly re­ha­bil­i­tated avatar.


LEAD­ING THE CHARGE Sushil Modi (bearded) on a one-day dharna in Patna

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