How Lalu’s scams became fodder for Sushil Modi politcs

How Lalu’s scams became fodder for Sushil Kumar Modi’s politics

Modi's long-winding career as a deputy and his lack of aspiration to be CM has created an enigma around his politics

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi. Credit: PTI Photo

Sushil Kumar Modi’s ascent in Bihar politics has various contributors -- his background in student politics, his unflinching loyalty towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, and his ability to use his opponents as political ladders.

Modi has been the deputy chief minister of Bihar since 2005, barring 2013-2017 when the JD(U) snapped ties with the BJP, and has been holding the finance portfolio since. But, his long-winding career as a deputy and his lack of aspiration to be the CM have made him an enigma with his style of politics.

Modi’s political career began during the Emergency imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid-70s. As a student leader, Modi was part of the protests against the authoritarian Congress regime and was also imprisoned at several places. He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1962 and through his activism, attained a position in the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Read: RJD, Congress created obstacles building of Ram temple: BJP's J P Nadda

He was a key part of the Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) movement along with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, two figures who would later become some of Bihar's most influential politicians. Long before Nitish became the man of the hour, Modi had grabbed JP’s attention and was even made the Patna University Students’ Union (PUSU) general secretary in 1973.

Following his induction into the BJP, Modi successfully contested from Patna Central, now Kumhrar, in the 1990 Bihar Assembly elections. He emerged victorious again in 1995 and 2000. He then rose in ranks to become one of the tallest figures for the party in Bihar.

A key part of Modi’s political career revolves around RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. In 1996, the BJP leader had filed a PIL in the Patna High Court accusing Lalu of what later came to be known as the fodder scam. A CBI inquiry was ordered and Lalu was found guilty, a case under which he is still incarcerated.

Also read: Bihar polls: From ‘No Modi show’ to ‘only Modi show’, BJP has meticulously cut Nitish Kumar down to size

Modi’s attack on the RJD leader did not stop there. In spite of being in prison, Lalu was harbouring “Benami properties”, the deputy alleged, adding that he owned “141 plots, 30 flats and six residences.”

Modi even wrote a 200-page book titled ‘Lalu Leela’ in 2018 on Lalu’s corruption scandals. His efficient plan of using Lalu as a villain in electoral politics has garnered interest over time. In a 2019 interview, Modi even said that if the RJD leader was out of prison, it would actually benefit the BJP as people would be able to see Lalu's “Jungle Raj”

Rampant corruption allegations against the RJD and the “Jungle Raj” jibes hurt the image of the party and the Grand Alliance. In a state where alliance politics takes centre stage, the RJD’s downfall, in effect, increased Modi’s political capital.

The Opposition, however, has criticized Modi time and again for his attack on Lalu for political gains. "For him, Lalu is like a fuel which he keeps using whenever he realizes that his own political future is imperiled," RJD’s Manoj Jha had said in 2018.

Read: Bihar Polls: In Lalu Prasad's bastion Raghopur, no walkover for Tejashwi Yadav

Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu’s son and RJD leader, calls the persistent attack on his father a “conspiracy” and retaliation for opposing the saffron party.

In his own alliance, Modi remains close to CM Nitish Kumar and plays safe while remaining in his crease. “Nitish is the captain of NDA in Bihar” is a message that he has reiterated on multiple occasions in the run-up to the elections.

Modi had recently tested positive for coronavirus soon after he had claimed that Covid-19 was “under control” in Bihar. The pandemic, rampant unemployment, poverty, among others, continue to remain issues at hand in the state. The question is -- how long will Sushil Kumar Modi bank on the Opposition’s blunders?