Amid the din and bustle of never-ending autorickshaws in Ranchi’s Bariatu Road, where one of the most prestigious hospital RIMS is located, one person is calm and quiet: Bhola Yadav. Lalu Prasad’s trusted aide Bhola is the one who prepares the list of who can meet Lalu on next Saturday.
Incarcerated in the fodder scam but recuperating at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Lalu is not allowed to meet everybody. As per the jail manual, he can meet only three persons once a week in every Saturday.
Last Saturday, it was D Raja of CPI, along with Kanti Singh (former Union Minister) and Santosh Manjhi (son of ex-Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi). On January 12, it was Shatrughan Sinha, Subodh Kant Sahay and Hemant Soren. Leaders of all hues have been making a courtesy visit to RIMS not only to inquire about Lalu’s health but also mark their attendance in Lalu’s durbar.
The jailed leader, suffering from multiple ailments, may appear forlorn but is neither down nor out. In a rare gesture, he tweeted recently: “….woh mujhko murda samaj raha hai, ussey kaho main mara nahi hoon" (Those who are thinking I have passed away, should be told I am alive and kicking.)
Away from active politics ever since he was put behind bars in December 2017, the prisoner-patient Lalu might be spending most of his time in solitude in the paying ward of RIMS, but his followers feel the mighty Lalu could bounce back once he gets relief from the apex court next month.
Till then, Lalu is doing what he is best at doing, thrashing out the vexed issue of seat-sharing in Bihar and Jharkhand by playing the role of an arbitrator among the warring constituents of the Mahagatbandhan. Together, the two states send 54 members to Lok Sabha, 14 from Jharkhand (which was part of undivided Bihar when Lalu first became CM in March 1990), and 40 from Bihar.
Little wonder, he explained it to Hemant Soren, the former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, how important it was to fight unitedly to keep the Modi-Shah combine at bay. The junior Soren, son of veteran tribal leader Shibu Soren, touched Lalu’s feet (in a gesture of seeking his blessings) after agreeing to the Mahagatbandhan seat-sharing pact in Jharkhand.
Having resolved Jharkhand, Lalu’s arduous task is to now stitch a formidable alliance in Bihar as well, “where too many cooks are spoiling the Mahagatbandhan broth.”
“Wait for some time. After a few more rounds of meetings, seat-sharing in Bihar too will be eventually resolved,” says former Rajya Sabha member and a key Lalu aide, Shivanand Tiwary.