RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, serving jail sentences in fodder scam cases and currently lodged in a Ranchi hospital on account of poor health, turned 72 on Tuesday, but his birthday which used to be a grand occasion for his family and party workers was a subdued affair this time.
Prasad's family members were conspicuous by their absence as party workers cut a 72-pound cake at the state headquarters in Patna and prayed for the health of their leader.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is reeling from the drubbing received in the general elections wherein the party which ruled Bihar for over a decade drew a blank.
There were no visitors for Prasad, who is undergoing treatment at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIIMS) in Ranchi, according to RJD’s Jharkhand unit General Secretary Kailash Yadav.
Usually, a maximum three visitors can call on him on Saturdays with the permission of Birsa Munda Central Jail authorities in Ranchi.
"Party workers from Bihar came to the hospital and cut a cake outside the hospital ward in Ranchi, where our leader is undergoing treatment,” Kailash Yadav told PTI. He said the Jharkhand unit leaders cut a cake in the party office too.
Prasad's younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav has been camping in Delhi for quite some time and party sources said state president Ram Chandra Purbe is in the national capital to hold celebrations on the occasion of Prasad’s birthday.
Elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, who was in Patna but did not participate in celebrations at the party office, said, “I pray for my father’s health and early release. I have written a letter to him extending my best wishes”.
A former chief minister of Bihar who also served as the Railway Minister in UPA-1 government, Prasad has been behind bars since December, 2017.
He was out on parole for attending Tej Pratap’s wedding in May last year and stayed outside jail for a few months thereafter on provisional bail citing medical reasons.
Asked why he did not visit the party headquarters where his presence would have pepped up RJD workers, Yadav – sporting a bright red T-shirt and a cap of matching shade – said, “You all can see I am overseeing the organizational polls for our party’s students’ wing. My presence ensures that the polls are held in a free and fair manner”.
“And what better way can there be to celebrate my father’s birthday than working to strengthen his legacy,” said the mercurial Yadav, who has been under attack for having queered the pitch for the RJD and the 'Mahagathbandhan' led by it by often speaking against the party line and even supporting rebel candidates in a few constituencies.
Meanwhile, Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi, who had succeeded him as the chief minister in 1997 and held the post till February 2005, posted a moving tweet in Hindi, “Heartfelt wishes to my dearest and respectable Shri @laluprasadrjd. May my rest of lifespan be added to yours”.
Twitterati chortled at the use of the word "avataran" (incarnation) for the birthday of her husband by the once demure home-maker who has over the years evolved into a doughty politician.
Several leaders including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also took to the micro-blogging site wishing “good health and happiness” to the ailing RJD supremo.
Prasad has been convicted in four fodder scam cases while he is facing trial in a fifth fodder scam case in a special CBI court in Ranchi.