Lalu missing from poster, Tejashwi lords over party


Visitors to the Rashtriya Janata Dal headquarters in Bihar capital feel intrigued by a new election poster put up in front of the premises, gigantic in dimensions but without an image of its larger than life founding president Lalu Prasad.



The poster has Tejashwi Yadav's photograph, looking resolute with arms across the chest, as a blue-coloured map of Bihar forms the background.

The second line of the election slogan coined by the party, 'yuva sarkar, abki baar', is shorn of the earthy imaginativeness that was characteristic of Prasad.

It also sounds like a straight lift from the slogan 'abki baar, Modi sarkaar' of 2014 which had caught the nations attention and helped the Bharatiya Janata Party achieve unprecedented electoral success.

Old-timers, however, seem not impressed with the idea of dropping from the RJD poster its jailed supremo who is acknowledged, across party lines, as the biggest crowd puller ever seen in Bihar's poitical arena.

Lalu floated RJD as a splinter group of the Janata Dal he was heading in 1997. Since then the party has been synonymous with his persona.

"All members of his family, be it his wife Rabri Devi, whose tenure as chief minister was longer than that of her husband, or their sons... they are nothing more than a pale shadow of the party chief who is, ironically, the party's biggest asset as well as liability, said an old associate of Prasad, lodged in judicial custody in Ranchi.

Wanting not to be named, he pointed out how the once powerful RJD drew a blank in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when Prasad was behind bars in Jharkhand capital after his conviction in fodder scam cases.

NDA leaders also scoffed at the "belated" attempt by the RJD at an "image makeover" by leaving Prasad out of the poster.

They also said if Prasad came out of jail, it will benefit the NDA more than the RJD.

It is often alleged that the NDA, which rules the Centre as well as Bihar, has been trying to obstruct Lalu Prasad's release from jail ahead of the assembly polls. While this betrays the RJD's complete ignorance of, and disrespect for, legal processes, let me also add that if he comes out during elections, it is us and not they who will stand to gain, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi had said.

The deputy CM thereafter went on to recount the lawlessness, corruption and economic stagnation that the 15- year-long Lalu-Rabri rule had come to symbolise, and asserted that memories of those days were alive like festering wounds in the state's collective psyche.

With Lalu out in the open, people will automatically recoil in horror and come rushing towards the NDA as nobody wants that dark era to return, he had told a party meeting a
few days ago that was also attended by BJP national president J P Nadda.

Die-hard lalu loyalists, however, still feel that the party supremo's charisma matters.

They fondly recollect how the RJD clinched 80 of the state's 243 assembly seats while contesting the 2015 polls in alliance with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United, the Congress and some other smaller parties. Lalu was then not in jail and had extensively campaigned for the Grand Alliance.

With Lalu Prasad in jail and a key satrap like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a former union minister and an influential Rajput leader, dead, it remains to be seen if Tejashwi, as projected in the poster, can steer the party out of the woods in the state elections that are likely in October-November.