Despite behind bars, Lalu neither down nor out

The premier hospital in Ranchi, Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), has, of late, become the epicentre of Bihar and Jharkhand politics. Leaders of different shades, including three former Chief Ministers and four former Union Ministers, have visited RIMS in the last fortnight to enquire about the health of RJD chief Lalu Prasad. But more than enquiring about his health, the purpose is to mark their presence felt in the durbar of Lalu, the undisputed leader of Mahagatbandhan in Bihar.

Lalu, who has been incarcerated in Ranchi following his conviction by the lower court in the fodder scam, is recuperating at RIMS after complaints of several medical ailments.

SWELLING SUPPORT

Till sometime back, there were three major players in the Grand Alliance (as Mahagatbandhan is known) in Bihar – RJD, Congress and Jitan Ram Manjhi’s pocket organisation HAM (Hindustan Awam Morcha). But as Congress and RJD tried to bring all such forces, which were inimical to the BJP, under one umbrella, there are now around a dozen parties in the Mahagatbandhan.

Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP) are the two latest outfits to join Mahagatbandhan. Obviously, Kushwaha and Sahni (he claims to be the leader of numerically strong Nishads – boat-men) last week went to Ranchi to meet Lalu and “enquire about his health”.

Others who have paid a courtesy visit include former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Sharad Yadav, Shatrughan Sinha, Shakeel Ahmad (who was Union Minister in UPA), Subodh Kant Sahay, former Chief Ministers of Jharkhand - Hemant Soren and Babulal Marandi.

“More than the courtesy call, it’s these leaders bid to win Lalu’s trust and get a Lok Sabha ticket. While Manjhi wants to contest from Gaya, Sharad wants to be Mahagatbandhan candidate from Madhepura (currently represented by suspended RJD MP Pappu Yadav. Similarly, Shatrughan wants to be Grand Alliance nominee from Patna Sahib, while Shakeel Ahmad wants to be Congress nominee from Madhubani,” a high-level source, aware of the developments, told Deccan Herald.

TWO STATES

Not only Bihar, but Lalu is also believed to be preparing the Mahagatbandhan list for Jharkhand too where the Congress, RJD, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) have joined hands to take BJP head-on.

“Hemant Soren, who enjoys a good rapport with Lalu and treats him like a father-figure, wants Dumka Lok Sabha seat for his father Shibu Soren. Similarly, Babulal Marandi wants to be Grand Alliance nominee from Koderma in Jharkhand, while Subodh Kant Sahay wants to be Congress candidate from Ranchi,” the source added.

Lalu summoned his younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav to Ranchi last week. It is believed that Lalu and his close aides have thrashed out ‘irritants’ in several seats in both the States. “We discussed politics too. But won’t reveal what exactly transpired in our talks with Lalu ji. However, one thing is clear: We will soon reach seat-sharing pact among all the constituents of Mahagatbandhan, including the three Left parties – CPI, CPM, CPI-ML. If needed, we will accommodate like-minded parties (SP and BSP) too,” said Tejashwi.   

“Lalu ji is the undisputed leader of Mahagatbandhan in Bihar. He knows the pulse of the people. He also knows which candidate could emerge triumphant in 2019 parliamentary polls. Obviously, he will have the final say in selection of candidates in both Bihar and Jharkhand,” said RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary, while speaking to Deccan Herald. 

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Despite behind bars, Lalu neither down nor out

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